IN GLENDALE, BATTLING CHILDREN’S CANCER WITH MARTIAL ARTS

By Anna Gustafson- New York Jewish Parenting Guide.com

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For Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, the path to holding a workshop at Glendale’s Forest Park Jewish Center this week about integrating martial arts into health care and education for children with disabilities and illnesses has been a circuitous one – to say the least.

Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, left, and Victor Bernal show off some of the martial arts moves Moskowitz uses as therapy for children battling cancer and other illnesses or disabilities. Moskowitz held a workshop on martial arts therapy at the Forest Park Jewish Center in Glendale on Tuesday. Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, left, and Victor Bernal show off some of the martial arts moves Moskowitz uses as therapy for children battling cancer and other illnesses or disabilities. Moskowitz held a workshop on martial arts therapy at the Forest Park Jewish Center in Glendale on Tuesday. Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

Growing up in a rough neighborhood in the South Bronx in the 1970s – when he was often targeted for wearing a yarmulke and was the victim of four armed robberies by the time he was 14, Moskowitz, who now lives in Kew Gardens, went on to become a New York City police officer, private investigator, teacher – including at Far Rockaway High School – principal, and social worker. The policeman-turned-rabbi, who began studying karate as a child for self defense, has gone on to found a nonprofit, Martial Arts Therapy, which combines several forms of martial arts to provide children battling cancer and other serious illnesses and disabilities with free lessons in pain management, physical rehabilitation skills and deep relaxation techniques.

And, on Tuesday afternoon, he stood in front of a group of martial arts teachers, physical and occupational therapists, and special education teachers gathered at the workshop in Glendale and provided an overview of how he hopes educators and health workers can include martial arts in their work. Additionally, he said he will be holding additional informational sessions, as well as his therapy programs for children, at the Forest Park Jewish Center until his group can raise enough money to open their own facility in Queens.

“Most people don’t know what the martial arts are – they think it’s a punch and a kick but martial arts is a health system,” said Moskowitz, who has taught martial arts to the police, self-defense to women and hostage situation tactics to Israeli anti-terrorist units. “Martial arts is about living a healthy life, about nutrition, about exercise – it’s how to use force for healing purposes.”

For Moskowitz, he has seen how martial arts has helped to heal – or, if not heal, at least help – children who have, for example, cerebral palsy, sickle cell anemia, blindness, deafness, autism, asthma and heart conditions.

“They push themselves because they want to,” said Moskowitz, who himself has a daughter with special needs. “They push themselves more than they ever thought they could do. It’s all about empowerment.”

A number of those attending Tuesday’s tutorial were fans of Moskowitz – including DomenicaCalifano, whose young nephew had worked with Moskowitz while he was battling a brain tumor. While the little boy died, his aunt said the martial arts therapy made him feel as though life was more in his control – and that it could even be fun from time to time.

“The martial arts, what a difference it made,” Califano said.

AviAvramcheyiv, who leads the New York Self Defense Academy on Kissena Boulevard in Kew Gardens Hills, volunteers as an instructor for Moskowitz and said he hopes to help the rabbi build support for an increased use of martial arts in places like schools and children’s hospitals.

“We work with kids in wheelchairs, kids who are very sick, and we want them to know they can do things with whatever they have,” said Avramcheyiv, who was a member of the Israeli karate federation and of the Israeli national team in the late 1990s.

Ultimately, Moskowitz said he wants to continue providing free therapy for children in his own center manned by volunteers like Avramcheyiv.

“I’m convinced we can help a lot of children,” Moskowitz said.

But, until them, Forest Park Jewish Center President Sheldon Bogen said the group is more than welcome to operate out of his facility – and Moskowitz plans on holding Sunday programs for children with a variety of illnesses.

For more information about the free therapy, individuals can contact Moskowitz at (917) 916-4681 or email Gavriael@aol.com.

 

mh- New York Jewish Parenting Guide.com

 

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