The message he brings to parents and teens from his book "The Times Square Rabbi: Finding the Hope in Lost Kids' Lives" (Hazelden, $14.95) is that even when a teenager's life is in crisis, caring can produce profound transformation.
Distraught parents asked for his help in finding their teenagers, and Fine never charged them a penny. He supported his work through being on the guidance staff at Yeshiva University and his seminars
Among the many teens Fine writes about in his book is Sarah, who was kicked out of her house. Today Sarah has a master's degree in social work, is married and recently had a baby girl. The mere mention of his name brings tears of gratitude.
" 'Get the hell out of here!' they screamed at the driver. He hit the accelerator and off we flew into the night with the van door wide open and six legs sticking out the side.
"They answered, 'Yehudah, that guy was so beamed out on crack that he was gonna come down the street and shoot you. If you got killed out here, then caring would go off the streets.' These kids placed caring so high on their list of things they would die for, it made me realize how much teens value friendship and loyalty. And these two young men who saved my life disappeared into the night and I never saw them again."
"Kids say I'm 'straight out' with them. They mean I get right to the point," Fine laughs. "I've met people, especially inner-city kids, who had never heard of a rabbi. I've had non-Jewish kids hang with me, then tell people they were rabbis now too, because a rabbi is cool and says it straight, and so if they're cool and say it straight, they must be rabbis too."
"I ask, 'How many of you have friends who are contemplating suicide?' and more than 90 percent of kids raise their hands; 65 percent of their questions and concerns deal with their friends' drug problems, suicide attempts and depression. It always comes down to worrying about their friends.
"But a certain percentage of the population is genetically predisposed to addiction. When that person gets high the first time, they have a totally different physiological response. It's like, 'Wow! I'm home!' So then I ask, 'Who are these people? You don't know. But it could be your best friend. Now do you think it's OK to party and introduce your friends to pot? How responsible is that?'
Last spring Fine spent two days at the Grace-Webb School for Living in Hartford, Conn. At this non-denominational alternative school for children struggling with social and emotional problems, "these kids had bottomed out and didn't trust any adults," he remembers.
"He just tuned in to these high-risk kids and could pinpoint their problems right away. Suddenly he blended with them. It was so powerful to watch these kids open up," Morgan says. "At the end of two days, they were amazed by how much they had bonded to Yehudah. They didn't want him to go. They each wanted a little piece of him."
"Yehudah is a healer. He has an energy that we don't see often in our lifetime," she says. "His forgiveness conferences replace a negative idea with a positive attitude. People leave with hope and optimism for a better life."
"I simply care and chose not to sit on the sidelines. Who in life can wait for all the press releases and talks to finish when there is work to be done?"