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Family First Inbox: Issue 810

“To someone who isn’t an addict, this story may make addicts seem like dumb people who need an extra energy boost and then fall into addiction”

Left with Questions [A Bitter Pill / Issue 809]

It was very brave of Family First to publish a woman’s account of her struggle to overcome addiction. As a frum female addict who’s one year sober, it’s nice to see the frum world recognizing this struggle.

One part bothered me a lot, though. Obviously, every addict has his or her own story and journey; just because my friends and I are addicts doesn’t mean we’d necessarily relate to all of it. Of course.

But to someone who isn’t an addict, this story may make addicts seem like dumb people who need an extra energy boost and then fall into addiction. Nobody ever picks up a pill just because. And I, as a logical person (never mind an addict), couldn’t understand why the protagonist started using. Yes, she was abused, but the correlation between that and the addiction is what I believe was missing.

Like Rabbi Shais Taub says in his book, G-d of Our Understanding: “An addict’s addiction is not his problem, it’s his solution. For if it were his problem, he’d stop once it got too hard.”

Articles like this make it seem like: a) addiction is there forever; and b) addiction happens out of the blue.

Neither could be further from the truth. Ultimately when determining if someone is truly sober or just a “dry drunk,” we have to understand. What made him drink, use, or gamble in the first place? When the problem is eliminated, there is no need for a solution.

Additionally, I was very surprised at the complete absence of any spirituality in her recovery process. The 12 Steps are entirely centered around spirituality. Yes, there’s therapy; yes, there are tools. But all addicts are told to pray, to give over their struggles to a higher power, to understand that they are helpless and cannot do anything without the help of G-d.

It was very strange to me that this was all missing.

Name Withheld


Stronger Than You Know [A Bitter Pill / Issue 809]

To the brave, wonderful woman who wrote “A Bitter Pill”: Your story made me cry. Cry for the confused teenager you were, subjected to unspeakable horrors; for the wife and mother who tried and battled to build her life; for the courageous, honest woman who fell and rose again, so many times. You are a true inspiration because you had so much to fight against, each and every time. I would like to stand and applaud you for your journey — indeed, in your words, “you are stronger than you know.”



Why the Women? [A Month of Control / Issue 809]

While I’m a huge fan of your magazine, I must protest your inclusion last week of an article interviewing five women about their phone use. Once again, an issue that is a daily struggle for all people was delegated to the women’s magazine, implying that it is only women who struggle with this. Some of my family members refused to read the article because they felt women were once again singled out.

Interestingly enough, I looked through the Mishpacha main magazine and did not find one devar Torah, whereas the Family First had at least two pages dedicated to Torah thought.

In the future, please place articles about things affecting everyone into the main magazine and interview men as well.

N.G., Manchester, UK


A Memorable Teacher [Windows / Issue 808]

How excited we were to read Rivka Frankel’s Musings about her days some 60 years back in Rabbi Aharon Rabinowitz’s class in Esther Schonfeld High School! As soon as we read the author’s memory of her teacher actively forestalling his anger and calmly sharing that with his students, we knew the subject of her story was our dear Uncle Ari shlita.

Rabbi Rabinowitz was one of the early talmidim of Rav Aharon Kotler ztz”l, and later a renowned psychologist. As a unique synthesis of mental health expert and talmid chacham, he was the doctor of choice when Rav Shach ztz”l had talmidim who needed professional counseling.

Presently active nonagenarians, he and his wife — our Aunt Shoshana (Schwartzman) — live in Yerushalayim. Rabbi Rabinowitz continues to give shiurim, write his chiddushei Torah in lomdus and hashkafah, and publish scholarly works addressing the interface between psychology and Torah. Most importantly, he remains a fount of wisdom — and the model of yiras Shamayim, avodas hamiddos, and yegiah b’Torah — for his entire family in Eretz Yisrael as well as of all of us nieces and nephews down through the generations here in America.

Rivka, he asked that we express his thanks to you for sharing.

Baruch and Miryam Rabinowitz


Then and Now [Windows / Issue 808]

I really enjoyed reading about Rivka Frankel’s high school experiences. As a high school girl in 2022, it was both cool and surprising to note that certain parts were so relatable. (Like, “I unfortunately never mastered the art of getting excused from class,” lol, didn’t know it existed in those days, too!)

Thanks for an awesome mag (for those Teen Pages-less weeks).

A 12th-grader,

Lakewood, NJ


It Takes Connection [Family Connections / Issue 808]

In a recent Family Connections, there was a sentence that might have left many of my readers and students confused. It stated: “Emotional coaching, naming feelings, mirroring, and all such acknowledgment techniques don’t work.”

These are techniques that I’ve been teaching for decades! Although the sentence was followed by: “We human beings need authentic emotional resonance,” I want to clarify that the operative word in the first sentence was techniques.

In fact, all of those interventions work beautifully when they are expressions of authentic emotions and heart-to-heart connection. They don’t work when they are employed as techniques. When these communications are poorly received, it is almost always because the listener feels “spoken at” rather than “connected with.” The article offered one particular strategy that can help foster authentic connection, and of course, there is a lot more to explore about this important topic.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe


On Dyslexia [Between the Lines / Issue 808]

First, I would like to thank Mishpacha for finally bringing up a topic that is so important yet hardly discussed. Children spend an average of seven hours a day in school. Children who cannot read are most likely doomed to fail. The trauma that a child has to endure under such circumstances is unbearable. I always ask parents and teachers to think of something they are really terrible at and then imagine taking a job in that specific area. How would they feel doing this every single workday for seven hours?

When I test children and the results show overwhelming symptoms of dyslexia, I’m very open with them. I also let them know that it isn’t their fault they still struggle with reading while their peers have moved on — it’s the gross negligence and failure of the system that they are in. They literally cry from relief. It’s like a rock has been lifted off their shoulders. I then let them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I also tell these children that there are many advantages to being dyslexic, and that, in fact, around 35 percent of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. People with dyslexia have a different way of thinking that has many advantages. According to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a person needs to be of average or above average intelligence in order to be diagnosed as dyslexic. People who are dyslexic are usually quite bright.

Dr. Shaywitz’s studies show that people who are dyslexic use the back and front of the right side and front left side of their brains to read, as opposed to the back of the left side of their brain. This prevents rapid, automatic word recognition. They need direct and explicit instruction that will rewire their brain to read. I advise those who are seeking reading specialists to make sure that they are Orton Gillingham- or Wilson-certified, and to ensure they have had clinical hours that were observed and mentored by certified trainers (just being Orton or Wilson trained is not enough).

Balanced literacy has been debunked, and schools need to wake up and train their teachers accordingly. Students need good vocabulary skills, phonemic awareness, decoding skills, fluency, automaticity, and background knowledge in order to have age-appropriate reading comprehension skills. The testing (Fountas and Pinnel) that goes on in the schools today make no sense and is a waste of precious time; it doesn’t accurately assess a child’s reading level. And what exactly are schools doing to remediate those test results? How many providers are trained to teach reading?

If you have a child who’s struggling with reading, don’t wait. It won’t fix itself. The child will not outgrow it. The earlier we remediate, the better the results will be. Having said that, it’s never too late to remediate.

I would also suggest that parents skip using an agency if your child shows a delay in decoding skills. Agencies can only provide you with the providers that they have. The supervisors in those agencies aren’t necessarily trained in the science of reading, either. Hire an advocate and then you can choose your provider.

Parental support is crucial in terms of getting a child to the next level. Having a provider support what the reading specialist is doing would give the child the optimal chance to reach his or her full potential.

Parents have the right to decide who their child’s provider will be. Parents have the right to decide how they want to go about their child’s intervention. No school or agency has a right to force anything on a parent.

Having a child diagnosed with dyslexia shouldn’t be scary or give you any feelings of hopelessness. According to studies, 20 percent of children are dyslexic (there is a spectrum). Dyslexic thinking brings along with it many advantages. There are many jobs that dyslexic thinkers are better at than non-dyslexic thinkers. These advantages are recognized in the UK, with the GCHQ, a British intelligence agency hiring up to four times as many dyslexic thinkers as other agencies.

Our job as adults is to help these children reach their full potential as readers by providing the necessary intervention and minimize the trauma that comes along with not knowing how to decode. Our children deserve better than what they’re getting now.

Malky Berkowitz, M. Ed, WDP, Literacy Specialist


Happy to Be Here [Editor’s Letter / Issue 807]

Gashmiyut or Ruchniyut? Chutz l’Aretz or Israel? Which do you choose?

Over the years as a Mishpacha reader, I have felt a strict dichotomy presented in its pages. A recent editor’s letter, about the difficulties of vacationing in Eretz Yisrael, raised that dichotomy again.

Live in Israel, eretz asher… tamid einei Hashem Elokecha bah, where life is a “struggle and daily grind”? Or live in chutz l’Aretz where you are farther from tzeil haShechinah but life is a breeze?

I have been blessed to live in Eretz Yisrael since 2003. I made aliyah after receiving my BA, met my husband here, did an MA and PhD in Hebrew, have five beautiful children, found a wonderful community. I live and work in Hebrew, and while I sometimes get stuck on a word, I don’t think it causes me daily angst.

I’m not minimizing the challenges of aliyah. It is difficult to navigate bureaucracy, fill out forms, shop and socialize not in your native tongue. But I am concerned by the stark pictures often painted in Mishpacha. The dusty, inconvenient, bare-bones, incomprehensible life often shown is not an Israel I recognize at all.

When I look at my family and friends in Israel, I see a wonderful variety. Some friends have two cars, some have one, and some have none. Some live in rented apartments, some live in bought apartments, some live in spacious private homes. Some go on vacation to hotels, some in tzimmerim, some camp in campsites.

I think most manage to find the balance that works for them, and I don’t see my fellow Anglos in a constant state of suffering.

Of course, we sometimes have terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days, but I’ve been told that happens to Jewish moms all over the world… even in America.

Yael Maizels



Saying Yes [Mix and Match / Issue 805]

As a dating coach and kallah teacher, the article about shidduchim caught my attention, and I was very curious to see the results of your poll. The one question I feel that I must comment on is the one asking how much research people do before a date. Everyone has her own style of researching a shidduch, and a lot of that is cultural. I get that.

Here is the part I cannot just ignore, as it comes up over and over again in my role as a dating coach: Doing basic research and then more extensive checking after the first couple of dates is just a bad idea. Parents, if you say yes to a potential match for your child, this means you are 100 percent okay if your child marries this person. This does not mean let them go out once or twice and then you’ll do more research to find out if he or she really is normal.

I’ve experienced this scenario so many times: The parents say yes, the couple goes out a few times, and then the parents start digging and find out some things they don’t like about the person their child is dating. Now the parents are stuck either convincing their child to break it off — or they call me to ask me to convince their child to break it off. What a waste of everyone’s time and money! If these parents had done proper research to begin with, none of this would be happening. Again, parents, saying yes to a date means saying yes to marriage. Don’t say yes unless you mean that.

The other scenario that I encounter is when older singles or singles who were married before get redt to someone who sounds “okay enough.” A trend I’ve spotted in these two demographics is to say yes without doing much research — it’s “just a date”— especially when they trust the person suggesting the shidduch. Another bad idea. I know it sounds like “just a date,” but those dates add up!

I’ve encountered too many scenarios with clients who, after agreeing to another date, start asking around a little more about the person, and then change their minds and don’t want to go out again. Now they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either they can keep their word and go on a date with someone they plan to say no to, or they can back out after having already committed, which potentially gives them a negative reputation in the minds of everyone involved.

Please, for your own sakes, or for the sake of your children, do all the research you need to do before agreeing to a date. Agreeing to a date is agreeing to marriage. Let’s not waste anyone’s time.

Mimi David


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 810)

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