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Family First Inbox: Issue 805

“Lisa Twerski’s differentiation of kinds of relationships clarified for me the work I struggle with”

Antidote to Fear-Mongering [To Be Honest / Issue 803]

I just wanted to thank you for Lisa Twerski’s piece, which delineated the difference between healthy, dysfunctional, and abusive marriages. It was so clear and informative, with the perfect balance of reassuring and understanding. Absolutely perfect for all the people who go into a tizzy after reading articles about dysfunctional or abusive behavior.

By any objective measure, I know that I have a great husband and a strong marriage. However, when I read magazines, I notice certain behaviors my husband has might be labeled “abusive.” He’s not perfect, but it’s really caused me anxiety to hear the strident tone writers sometimes take, and it’s made me question my relationship and his parenting. This was the perfect antidote to those fears.

A Grateful Wife


Journey — Without Support [To Be Honest / Issue 803]

Our insular world has come a long way in bringing issues to the forefront, and I think that’s partly due to the incredible efforts of what’s printed in this magazine each week.

Lisa Twerski’s differentiation of kinds of relationships clarified for me the work I struggle with. As someone who was raised in a home of domestic abuse, the struggle to be validated is enormous. I am so grateful that you have discussed the topic of trauma in familial relationships. For those who don’t know what that looks like, it’s a hole and void that I carry with me each and every second of my life.

It took years and too many therapists to count to finally find a suitable trauma therapist. The work is beyond painful. I need to retrain my brain how to feel, because my emotions have gone numb. As explained to me, the past will always be on my timeline, but I need to learn how to relate to it, and to live in the now is part of the goal. It literally feels like a full-time job. After some sessions, I feel wiped — but it’s mostly the work between sessions that’s so exhausting.

I feel my journey would be much easier if there were gentler and more encouraging support, as opposed to the judgment that I feel about why I’m an older single. In fact, a relative wanted to reach out to other relatives on my behalf to ask them for financial assistance for my therapy sessions, but that was a dead end. She was met with questions and judgment about when there would be an end date to therapy. If only they were in my shoes and tried to do even one tiny aspect of my weekly homework assignments — which I ask for because I’m determined to climb the seemingly unending mountain.

Support looks like friends and relatives reaching out with warmth. Phone calls, short coffee get-togethers, Shabbos and Yom Tov invites are some examples.

I know a woman who miraculously received her get after many years of waiting. She said that she feels it’s the support of the community, friends and family that enabled her to reach this point. Well, the very people she feels support her, I feel judged by. When it comes to childhood trauma, there’s a world waiting to be discovered and a journey of healing that is long, arduous, and painful, and feels never-ending. I’m determined to make a dent — and bring about change so that those of us in that position can find healing more easily.

I would welcome any feedback or support and encouragement from readers.

Name Withheld


Portrait of an Artist [Celebration in Color / Issue 801]

Full disclosure: not only am I not artistic but I cannot and do not connect to art. I’m one of those readers who flips the pages when there is artwork and am completely bored in an art gallery… I know, I know.

So, what drew me in to the interview with Rus Prupas and kept me reading to the end? I started reading the article because I’m privileged to be a friend of her daughter Elisheva of FAME. But what kept me reading was the moving way that Rus described her complete acceptance of doing what was right for the stage of life she was and is in. Designing clothes was right then and not now? Great. Painting earlier in life sounds great in theory, but it came just at the right time for her… no regrets, just a complete embracing of whatever stage Hashem places her in now. It blew me away.

And then there was the reason she went back to the classroom — because Torah and teaching Torah informs who she is. So often, many of us women drop learning as new opportunities present themselves. This was a great reminder about how if we want to give our best selves to any career, we have to build our best, deepest, most growing selves.

Sarah Rivkah Kohn

Founder & Director, Zisel’s Links & Shlomie’s Club


Is This Ethical? [Close to Home]

Thank you so much for providing quality reading material that greatly enhances my Shabbos each week.

I am very disturbed by the serial diary Close to Home. The author ended her first column with, “The house ended up going into a bidding war — and three of the four bidders were people I’d tipped off. One of them snagged the house. At which point I said to myself, hey, looks like I know what I’m doing here, I’m helping people, anyhow; I may as well do it professionally.”

Instigating a bidding war raises moral and ethical questions, as well as potential legal issues. It is not noble, virtuous, or something a frum media outlet should applaud. By manipulating the market, a broker helps no one but him- or herself. Free markets create enough of a bidding war, and promoting this underhandedness is not something I would have expected in a Torahdig publication.

Our community is constantly looking for more affordable housing by moving to the next neighborhood over — be it Toms River and Jackson in Lakewood, or Chestnut Ridge, Haverstraw, and New City in Monsey. Real estate agents sweeping in to hyper-inflate the cost of rising home ownership in frum communities makes home ownership impossible for many young families. Who is the one really being helped here?

Leah Stern

Chestnut Ridge, NY


Nechama Norman responds:

Thanks for writing. This is a common question, and I’m happy to address it.

There’s something uniquely personal about residential home sales. Maybe that’s what causes people to expect not to obey the laws of capitalism. The reality is that the real estate market is no different from any other market — and supply and demand is the key factor in determining the value of any product in any open market.

Free market dictates that “value” means what a buyer is willing to pay for a specific item. Real estate agents don’t determine the price. The buyers do.

Let’s walk through the process and see how markets get inflated.

In any given transaction there are two sides: the buyer and the seller.

Most home owners require their real estate agent to sign a contract that gives a fiduciary obligation to net as much money as possible. Not only are bidding wars moral and ethical, they are actually often required by contract. (As an aside, some people like to go straight to the listing agent when looking to buy a home. Remember: Their obligation is to the seller with whom they signed a contract.)

On the buy side, an agent’s job is to take care of his clients and walk them through the home-buying process. The first step is to connect them with a mortgage lender who will advise them on their budget. Once they are clear with that, the agent should educate them on market value and which location is realistic for their budget. If a person feels that her real estate agent doesn’t have her best interest in mind or is not a skilled negotiator, she can simply fire him.

So then, you ask, why are certain markets so easily hyper-inflated? Why do prices jump so quickly?

Again, you’ll find the answer in the laws of supply and demand: Statistics show that there is a severe housing shortage in the US, particularly in suburban areas. People are fleeing the city.

In certain notable areas, this shortage is compounded. In any given market, a family that gets priced out of an area can simply move to a block they can afford. However, in the specific areas mentioned by the writer, my observation is that buyers can get very particular with whom they choose to live. As a real estate agent, I don’t discriminate; I’ll show any home to any buyer. When buyers say that they only wish to purchase on this exact block, within a ten-minute walk to that specific location, we’ll service their requests.

Once a neighborhood is branded a certain “type” by buyers, hundreds and sometime thousands of people converge on those few blocks. Every one of these people may have a whole list of wants that are more important than purchase price. This demand inevitably causes the already short supply to skyrocket in value. When a single home becomes available, all these people pounce. This generates a bidding war that can balloon an entire area. This is very frustrating to buyers who watch helplessly as their dream location soars beyond their budget.

In closing, buyers need to remember: they’re not the only ones looking. A lot of people have the same preferences as they do and are willing to pay more for it. Sellers will almost always take the most money offered to them. It’s the buyer’s behavior that will always determine the market. That is free market.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 805)

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