Meet this Week’s JewishMOM: Children’s Author Bracha Goetz

Meet this Week’s JewishMOM: Children’s Author Bracha Goetz

Bracha with her husband and two youngest children

What is your name? Hi there! I’m Bracha Goetz.

Where did you grow up? In Rego Park, NY – as Vicki Druss.

Where do you live?
In Baltimore.

How old are your kids/grandchildren?
We are blessed with wonderful children who range in age from 21 to 31, and a garden of growing grandchildren, with our oldest grandson being nine years old, thank G-d.

If you are a Baalat Teshuva, briefly explain how you become religious.
After I graduated from Harvard and went on to study in medical school, I was feeling more strongly than I ever felt that my inner core was not receiving the nourishment it needed. From as young as I can remember, I was always searching for emes. I went to Israel to volunteer on the oncology ward at Hadassah Hospital during my six-week break after my first year of medical school. My mom actually arranged for me to go to Israel that summer, as she was hoping that I would meet and date someone Jewish for a change.

I remember the sign I saw by Aish HaTorah that summer. It was a poster of a big bagels and lox sandwich with a caption saying something like “Is this the culmination of thousands of years of our Jewish heritage?” I deeply wanted the true nourishment that my soul was craving. That’s when I began the process of learning the guidelines for living in the most pleasurable way possible and discovering the emes that my soul needed.

The six weeks that I had planned to spend in Eretz Yisroel turned into 11 years, thank G-d. I chose not to continue on my career path toward becoming a psychiatrist. Instead, I stayed home with my children for 17 years, and devoted my time to helping to raise them, while doing some writing, editing and babysitting on the side.

If you are a working mom, what do you do?
I coordinate the Jewish Big Brother Big Sister Program for the Orthodox community in Baltimore, and I also write children’s books and articles and give presentations.

Bracha's newly-released book on teaching children about personal safety.

Can you tell us about your newest book? My newest children’s book – just released this week – is Let’s Stay Safe!, published by Mesorah Publications in conjunction with Project Y.E.S., a division of Agudath Israel. This is a comprehensive sweet and tznius safety book for young children – with delightfully adorable illustrations – that includes personal safety as another normative safety measure. That’s what makes it a major breakthrough for the Orthodox world – personal body safety being acknowledged as an essential topic to be included for parents and children to learn in order to guard their wellbeing, right alongside fire safety.

Prevention is truly possible, and this book now enables parents to help their young children be prepared, in a calm and clear way.

Can you tell us about your special work promoting children’s safety?

Over four years ago, our youngest daughter, Shira Goetz, gave me the encouragement needed to write a book designed for frum children about personal safety. I “knocked on the door” of every frum publishing house I could think of with my safety manuscript, but no company was willing to publish it back then. Meanwhile, I wrote articles, trying to increase awareness in our communities about this children’s safety issue.

Over two years ago, I sent my picture book manuscript to Rabbi Horowitz, the Director of Project YES, and he devoted himself to getting the safety book, which evolved during the years, published. I believe that without Rabbi Horowitz’s tremendous efforts – and my daughter’s heartfelt prayers through these years – we would not be able to witness the miracle of this book being published now by Artscroll, with the endorsement of Torah U’Mesorah as well, thank G-d.

Although I really only became aware of the underground world of abuse in our midst just four years ago, B”H, there has been great progress during this time in beginning the process of weeding it from our beautiful garden. It should only continue – and prevention education is key.

From this whole endeavor, I learned that we don’t have to be great scholars or have lots of money or prestige to make our communities better places. We can be baalei teshuva, gerim or FFB’s, and if we see what needs fixing, we don’t have to be afraid, we can work on repairing things. I also learned during these four years, over and over again, that we really can never accomplish anything on our own. We need Hashem to smile upon every single effort we try to make. And we need support from other individuals committed to striving for improvement.

I wrote this book to help keep our little ones safe. In the merit of reading this book to young children, may all of our precious ones be blessed to remain pure and in good health, with shining neshamas.

You can order the book at www.artscroll.com.

What are some of the other children’s books you’ve written?

I’ll tell you about four of them: Let Your Fingers Do the Mitzvos gives children a chance to act out doing the mitzvos through finger play. The Invisible Book demonstrates why it makes sense to believe in what’s invisible. Remarkable Park is a picture book about what we learn from animals and our natural world. And The Happiness Box, which I wrote back when my children were little, teaches happiness skills to children. So basically, I love expressing deep concepts in a really simple way.

Bracha reading from one of her books

What’s your favorite part of being a mom? My favorite part of being a mom was instilling spiritual nourishment in my children. Now my favorite part is them continuing to instill it in me. Also, it’s watching them brightening our world, each in their own way.

What’s the toughest part, for you, of being a mom?
The toughest part for me was providing the physical nourishment my children needed. I’m not all that interested in spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I’d rather be doing lots of other things, so that has never been easy for me. I’m still a really uncreative cook! J

What’s the best advice for moms you’ve ever received? The best advice for me comes from Sara Imeinu. I wrote a little poem about it:

Just Ten Minutes?

“Take ten minutes out of your day,

To do what you enjoy,” the “experts” now say.

Ten whole minutes? Is that all we get?

Nearly twenty-four hours with pleasures unmet?

Has it come down to this? Must we settle so low?

Our foremother knew more than today’s “experts” know.

“All her days were good,” our Torah makes clear.

Sarah enjoyed every minute – each year.

And within our souls, her dormant trait lies,

An innate potential that need only arise,

To extract out life’s pleasures, and feel ecstasy,

Not just for ten minutes – for an eternity!

Yup, extracting out life’s pleasures and being joyful is a top priority.

How did you hear about JewishMOM.com?

My long-time wonderful friend, Ruchama Feuerman, emailed me about it.

How long have you been reading JewishMOM.com?

Just checked my emails – since 8/25/10.

What’s your favorite part of JewishMOM.com?

Your honesty, your sincerity, your openness to grow and learn and share – it’s the spiritual nourishment – that you provide. And now I’ve got daughters who are mommies hooked on it too, thank G-d! May the ripples keep spreading.

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5 comments

  1. So glad to read about such a wonderful person here! I volunteered in Big Brother Big Sister under Bracha Goetz almost 10 yrs ago and found her to be such a sincere, sweet person who was so incredibly dedicated to her job– helping young and often troubled kids find positive role models in the community.
    Happy to find out about the books she wrote and looking forward to reading them to my own children here in Israel!

  2. I loved your lament about physical nourishment for the children: it made me realise that really, when we don’t get any of those things done, maybe we are providing the real nourishment, that is, the spiritual.
    OK, so doing the dishes doesn’t count, but at least you gave me some food for thought, if not to eat!!!

    thanks for inspiring.

  3. I read “The Happiness Box” only once, as a young child (I’d say almost twenty years ago), and I still remember it down to the illustrations. That is how much influence it had on me.

    Chazki v’amtzi in this incredible work you are doing!

  4. What a joy to “meet” Bracha Goetz in this forum! And to see her picture, and family. Thank you, Chana Jenny!
    Bracha, you were going to mail me a copy of the personal safety book for review in the N’shei Chabad Newsletter – I never received it.
    YASHER KOACH a million times to Bracha Goetz for persevering in her battle to get her book published in order to spread the word and to help protect children. Who can count how many lives you have saved? (To those who think I am exaggerating, I am not.)

  5. Have this book in my classroom! I was confused and thought you had worked on another book since when I looked through it I did not see your name. Why isn’t your name on the cover? May we all be instruments to help spread a safety net around all children, so no child can be victimized.

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