Brooklyn, NY – Stale cigarette smoke hangi ng in the air behind him, the sounds of weights clanging and billiard balls crashing in the background, Motti sits on a frayed couch in the heart of Flatbush one recent night and talks about what it is like — or was — to be an at-risk Jewish teenager.
Now 17, he came to Brooklyn seven months ago from the Midwest, where he was failing at school and fighting at home. Here, he says, he lived with a member of his family, but was still lost, “chilling on the streets, doing drugs.”
That changed a few months ago, Motti (not his real name) says, when “a friend,” someone he’d hang out with wasting time, told him about Our Place, a drop-in center for teens, many from Orthodox backgrounds.
He came one night, one of the more than 5,000 troubled teens helped by the center in the last dozen years. And he kept coming back.
“Every night,” Motti says. Shooting a little pool, watching some TV, talking with the adult volunteers and teenage peers who hang around the center, down a flight of stairs, through an unmarked door on Avenue M, a business center of Brooklyn’s heavily Orthodox neighborhood.
The teens, mostly from Modern Orthodox and black-hat backgrounds, have the classic street look — garish T-shirts, jeans or cargo pants, suspicious eyes that give every visitor the once-over. Some of the boys are bareheaded; some wear stocking caps.
Were it not for Our Place, a 12-year-old independent institution under Orthodox auspices, “I’d be on the street,” Motti says.
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Watch below YouTube clip about Our Place a Brooklyn, NY org. helping frum runaway kids.