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Family First Inbox: Issue 819

“We’d appreciate you not rubbing your good fortune in our faces while we keep hoping for a new government that will grant us Sundays”

Subliminal Messaging [To Be Honest/Issue 818]

After reading Elisheva Appel’s excellent column about the rising standards within our community, and how new means of attaining all trends for low cost may be harming us, not helping us, I wondered if she hadn’t gotten it backwards. If everything in this world was created for Bnei Yisrael, perhaps it’s our desire for gashmiyus that brought about websites like Ali and Shein.

We’re so superficial — and we’re suffering for it. Shidduchim is just one more example. A letter in the main magazine about shidduchim and the Words Unspoken in the same issue both bemoan the reality of a society that rejects a wonderful marriage candidate in a less-than-perfect package. My Israeli daughters actually asked me if the black shoes with the white soles that every single American seminary girl wears are part of their school uniform — so yeah, maybe we are over-emphasizing conformity.

I wonder if the way we’re doing some things in our schools isn’t inadvertently encouraging our kids to be so superficial. When we tell girls, “You can’t wear this, you can’t wear that, this bag isn’t okay, those shoes are a problem,” we’re teaching them it’s all about the way you look on the outside. It’s a subliminal message that the outside is what counts.

Not that I think we should let girls wear whatever they want, and do away with all the rules. But maybe we can rethink the way we go about it, so our girls really understand that they want to give the most attention to what’s inside of themselves.

It’s easy to blame the schools and the shadchanim, but they’re just giving us what we want. If people were looking for shidduchim based only on character, shadchanim would be suggesting those shidduchim, and if we weren’t clamoring to send our kids to the schools with the most superficial definitions of success, the schools would be looking to supply the demand.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but I thank Elisheva for asking the question.

Penina Zuckerman


The Real Gold Standard [To Be Honest/Issue 818]

After reading Elisheva Appel’s article, I felt I must respond to one point. While I agree that we need to make sure the way we spend our time and money reflects Torah values, I was saddened to see rebbeim singled out. Rebbeim are the true gold standard of our community. Without them, there would be no frum community at all, with or without heightened levels of materialism. They devote their lives to introducing Torah to our children.

My children’s rebbeim lead the simplest lives imaginable. They drive old cars that require frequent visits to the mechanic; they dress simply; they make simchahs in the most affordable locations; their wives work hard to enable their husbands to remain in this most noble profession. If my son’s rebbi is able to get shoes for his children at cost price, I’m so happy to hear that he and his eishes chayil have one less thing to worry about!

We can each take a look at our own lives and figure out how to make sure we remain focused on what’s truly important. Personally, I don’t wear visible logos. I don’t need people to know how much I spent on my shoes or bag. I find that having a tangible kabbalah such as this one allows me to have a better feel for when something is a need, a want, or a want-to-impress-others.

Thank you, Elisheva, for bringing this topic to the table.




Stop the Gossip [Words Unspoken/Issue 818]

To a Normal, Single Girl,

I read your letter to the shadchan with tears in my eyes. Like you, I’m a single with a medical condition, and I can relate to every word you said.

This letter was not just for shadchanim — it’s for everyone. If you do know someone with a medical condition, please don’t share this knowledge without asking a sh’eilah or ensuring you have the correct information. Let me assure you that everyone in this situation has sought advice and asked daas Torah; we know what we’re doing. You are no rav. Please don’t involve yourselves in things you don’t understand.

I’m an older single who was born with a minor medical condition. Suddenly, when I entered shidduchim, it became the talk-of-the-town, with rumors flying. People like myself spend their childhood life working so hard to be normal — and we are very normal. You could be my close friend and you wouldn’t know about my medical condition. We’ve become stronger, more understanding, more empathetic people, yet we have it so, so hard in shidduchim, due to all the false information that goes out about us.

Please stop gossiping about us and stop letting us down. Treat us the way you’d want to be treated — please don’t make our journey any more difficult than it has to be.



Turn to the Master Shadchan [Words Unspoken/Issue 818]

As a young married woman who herself had a serious medical diagnosis attached to her shidduch résumé, I’d love to respond to “A Normal Single Girl,” who is in obvious pain about the way she’s being treated while in shidduchim.

I feel like your anger and pain is misplaced. I know only too well how painful it is to have a medical diagnosis that you didn’t choose attached to your résumé, but I also feel like you are blaming the shadchan. The same Eibeshter Who gave you the medical issue is the ultimate mezaveg zivugim. It’s not the shadchan’s fault.  You’re simply taking your pain at a difficult (horrible) situation and attaching it to the wrong place.

Shidduchim are hard. A medical diagnosis makes a hard situation brutal. But that isn’t the shadchan’s fault.

I know that being redt boys who have zero compatibility with you is extremely painful. I’ve been in that situation as well. But think of it every suggestion as getting you closer to the right one.

I’m assuming the shadchan has no other ideas for you and she thinks that sending you “something” is better than nothing.

I know that’s not true. I really, truly know. But being angry at society or the shadchan isn’t going to make a brutal process any easier. It’s just going to make you bitter.

My shidduch came about from a “random person.” And it took years to happen. But ultimately, when Hashem decided we suffered enough, we met.

I agree that your medical diagnosis should be upfront. I understand that not everyone agrees, but investing emotional energy into a shidduch and being dumped after disclosure isn’t my idea of a good time.

I didn’t find medical shadchanim to be any better. They took money, talked to me initially, and then stopped responding.

So turn to the Master Shadchan, the Eibeshter. Surely, He knows your pain. May you be zocheh to find your zivug hagun b’karov.

Rachelle T.

P.S. A friend of mine wrote a beautiful poem about having a medical diagnosis called “Welcome to Bahrain,” which I’m happy to share. I can be contacted through Family First.


Raising Boys Is a Blessing [Family Connections/Issue 818]

I identify so much with the woman who wrote in to Sarah Chana Radcliffe regarding her feelings of sadness over the gender of her baby.

As a mother of seven sons (no daughters yet, b’ezras Hashem b’karov!), I can physically feel the sadness you describe when your youngest was born. It’s a feeling that only someone who has children of one gender can really understand. It’s something that I struggled with after the birth of most of my sons, especially the last few.

Over the past year, though, I’ve come to a place of acceptance and have been able to really focus on the brachah that Hashem has given to me. When you listed the very few times you feel you can bond with your sons, I was laughing. Let me tell you all the ways my awesome sons and I have fun together: off-Shabbos Friday morning brunches with my mesivta boys; late-night cooking sessions Erev Pesach with the music rocking the kitchen; watching my pack of boys disappear into our shed Erev Succos and having a succah magically appear two to three hours later (with no injuries!); beautiful singing on Shabbosim; late-night schmoozing when the boys come home from night seder. The list goes on.

Coincidentally, it’s my husband who happily takes his boys to buy suits so that he can spend some time with them. I’m pretty sure I speak to my son in beis medrash more often than I speak to my own mother! He calls every night to hear about my day and tell me how his was. My husband is extremely close with his mother and drives to visit her an hour each way just to spend time with her, sitting in the kitchen, schmoozing.

Once I took a Shabbos walk and saw a woman walking down the block with a gaggle of daughters. My heart gave a pang that I would never have that. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I realized she might see me walking down the block with my handsome pack of bochurim and think the exact same thing!

I’ve come to realize how much brachah we have in our lives; we just need to stop and see it and focus on what we do have, and not what we don’t have. I also want to give a massive shoutout to Hadassa Swerds for painting raising boys in such a positive, albeit humorous, light. Boys read all these articles, and when women complain about how hard raising boys is, they read that, too. Raising boys is fun and entertaining! Boys are awesome! (I would pick having a family of boys any day — just think how much easier Erev Yom Tov shopping is!)



Babi’s Best Friend [Family Connections/Issue 818]

I’m writing in response to the letter writer who asked a question to Sarah Chana Radcliffe in last week’s Family Connections. The letter writer said: “Grandchildren are usually closer to their mothers’ parents.”

How wrong she is! I’m a grandmother to beautiful grandchildren kein ayin hara from a son and a daughter, and I’m close to all of them. And my son and his wife live in a different state than I! I talk to my grandchildren on the phone on a daily basis. It’s the effort that you put in as a grandparent that will make the relationship blossom. It doesn’t matter if they’re from a son or a daughter. As my son’s three-year-old daughter told me, “Babi! You’re my best friend!”

Rivka R.

Brooklyn, NY


A Call for a Conversation [Against the Stream/Issue 817]

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Chaya Cohen, for writing about the importance of mothers keeping their children home with them for the first few years. And thank you, Family First, for the courage to print her words.

How have we reached the point that this is considered an unconventional choice? What has happened in our world that we now pay lip service to the idea that being a mother is an important tafkid, but we produce graduates, year after year, who don’t recognize the repercussions of the choices they and their husbands are making?

I realize that this is a hornet’s nest. No one wants to make mothers who need to work feel guilty. And each couple must establish their own priorities. But, bit by bit, we’ve created mothers who don’t know how important they are. As Mrs. Cohen writes, tragically, too many look down on a mother who is there with her child day in and day out. How intelligent can she be? If she were smart, she would be doing important and fulfilling work outside the home.

While Mrs. Cohen writes about keeping her children home rather than sending them to preschool when they’re three years old, I know many, many mothers whose babies are going to day care at six weeks or three months of age. Many of these mothers are shocked to discover themselves in tears as they drop their babies off. No one told them they would be so attached to this new being. Staying home wasn’t even considered an option!

I found it ironic that this piece appeared only weeks after a plea by Allison Josephs for mothers to be more attached to their children. How does that fit in with dropping a baby off at day care when only a few weeks old and then buying into the false idea that two-year-olds need “socialization” more than they need their mothers?

We each face different circumstances and make different decisions. However, we should have a picture of the ideal. The ideal is for little ones to be with their mother. When we choose to (or need to) opt for a different way of managing, we should be aware of the pitfalls it might present. So many of the myriad therapists servicing the religious Jewish world acknowledge that many of their clients don’t need their specialized services. They just need a mother who is available, knowledgeable, and hands-on.

If an anti-Semitic, evil regime forced mothers to leave their babies and go to work, we would shout to Heaven. Yet we choose to impose this upon ourselves.

Can we please explore this conversation further?

Susan Lapin


An Out-of-the-Box Suggestion [Against the Stream/Issue 817]

The “Out of the Box” parenting article reminded me of a story I read in the Olomeinu, I-don’t-have-to-tell-you-how-many-years-ago:

Two kids from our planet flew to a future era on a planet beyond ours. They found two children on that futuristic planet focusing intently on a screw. They asked them, “What are you doing?!”

The futuristic kids shushed them, and continued with their intense focus.

Finally, the planet Earth kids insisted on an explanation.

“We’re focusing all of our energy, but we are having a hard time getting this screw into the wall.”

“Oh! I can help with that,” called out one of the kids from our planet, as he whisked out a screwdriver and promptly got the screw into the wall, as his fascinated new friends ogled him.

I don’t know what the cynical author of this story had in mind, but I’m guessing he was trying to highlight that old-fashioned techniques — in our case, simple reward and punishment — are quite useful and efficient when it comes to “screwing in screws.”

It’s good to learn higher-level, sophisticated techniques, but our bubbies and mommies knew a thing or three.

To me it seems that a real “out-of-the-box” parenting would be to go a few generations back and bring back some of the “screwdrivers” of the past so we can confidently, without any guilt or wavering, put a kid who is hitting in his crib until he stops hitting, or use other such “non-cutting edge” parenting techniques.

Baila Vorhand


Sundays Off Is Our Dream [Two Cents/Issue 817]

I’m writing on behalf of MEASLY — Moms Eagerly Anticipating Sundays Like Yours. After reading your column, I can’t help but quote one of my high school teachers: “My heart pumps custard for you!” (I knew that would come in handy someday.)

Those of us in Eretz Yisrael only dream about having that extra day in which to do home repairs (hellooo? Do you even know what my house looks like? As it is, I’m Eagerly Anticipating Pesach, EAP, for the chance to clean) or have baking sessions with our kids.

A day off? What’s that? Friday? Don’t make me laugh. If the good people of Eretz Yisrael had Sundays off, maybe everyone wouldn’t be so stressed and the drivers not as aggressive. (I dunno, maybe...) So, next time we’d appreciate you not rubbing your good fortune in our faces while we keep hoping for a new government that will grant us Sundays. (And by the way... Sunday is leftovers day here, too.)

Shiran Zaray-Mizrahi

Ramat Beit Shemesh


It Won’t Always Be Like This [Words Unspoken/Issue 814]

As someone who has experienced panic attacks, I felt a responsibility to comment on the Words Unspoken article.

A number of years ago I had OCD, depression and anxiety, and panic attacks. If there was one thing that really, really helped me in a huge way, it was having in my head the idea that even though at this very moment I was having difficulties with my emotions, I knew I’d eventually get better. My point is, even when you’re in those moments and it’s very difficult to think like that, being positive and knowing that you will get better (and believe me, you will) is therapeutic in itself.

The second idea that was helpful as well was getting out there and doing things that felt difficult. For example, I was nervous to take long walks, so I took shorter walks. They increased in length over time, which was a way to slowly get myself to be part of things.

The third idea, which may seem obvious but is also a major strategy, is breathing. When you have a panic attack, you get so nervous you forget to breathe, and that adds to your nervousness in a big way. Stop and take a deep breath. It really helps! The main thing is to always know that just because you’re feeling nervous right now doesn’t mean it will always be like this. You’re fine and you’ll be even better, and you’ll get there, believe me on that one!

Name Withheld


Recognize the Struggle [Words Unspoken/Issue 814]

This is a plea to educators and mechanchim to be understanding. Of course, there needs to be structure, and standards must be maintained, but being an educator myself, I ask for some exceptions to the rules.

I’m sharing a personal story to show how powerful some compassion could be. When I was in high school, I struggled with anxious and depressed thoughts. At the time, it wasn’t feasible for me to be in therapy, so I pushed through it daily. I recall very clearly one day, after a particularly rough patch, I was taking a weekly parshah quiz, and I simply shut down.

I sat through the test, staring at the paper, tears threatening to spill over. All of my classmates finished, and I continued to sit there, until it was time to hand the test in. The teacher, who was also the principal of the school, looked at me expectantly.

I looked back and replied, “I just can’t do it. I don’t know any of the answers. My mind is blank.”

I was clearly overwhelmed. I was a very diligent student, and my emotions overtook me, and I shut down.

The principal looked at me, looked at the paper, which was about a quarter complete, and said calmly, “Okay, we won’t count this one. You aren’t yourself, and it wouldn’t be fair of me to count this.”

No one needed to know. My classmates never needed to find out. My struggle was recognized and validated.

I graduated high school almost ten years ago, and I still remember how much that meant to me.

Please, mechanchim and mechanchos, recognize the struggle. You never know how much a small action could help a struggling student.

Name Withheld


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 819)

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