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Family First Inbox: Issue 828

“The implication is that if a woman does ‘boot her husband out,’ she is a ‘lesser woman.’ This is a terrible misrepresentation”

A Sacrifice, Not a Burden [The Conversation Continues / Issue 827]

With all this talk about support and kollel, there are some people who feel obligated to make sure their young children have all their wants met because “It’s not their fault we chose this lifestyle.” That really rubs me the wrong way.

Every choice we make as parents affects our children: Which community we live in, which home we buy, which school we send them to, and our chosen profession will all affect their formative experiences.

Why do we only feel the need to make it up to them when we’re living a kollel lifestyle? Are we forgetting the eternal beauty of and everlasting reward for learning, not to mention the many daily blessings we feel, both in terms of the values we learn and live, and in the brachos and nissim Hashem bestows? Are we giving our children the message that Torah and kollel is something that we sacrificed for, but we don’t want to burden them with the sacrifice?

Can we change the message to a more true one: Every choice is by definition saying no to something else, and our family made the greatest choice. We chose the beauty of Torah, and we’re proud to give this over as our legacy to our children.



Teens Know the Issues [Inbox / Issue 827]

I’m writing in response to the letter submitted by “G.J.” addressing the article written by Miriam (Pascal) Cohen.

With all due respect, your letter was a bit of an overreaction. I’m sorry this triggered such a response, and I understand that your pain probably prompted this, but bashing articles that trigger your pain won’t take your pain away.

The article was meant to bring awareness and open our eyes to a very real and serious issue in our community. Because as we know, an issue can only be fixed if we’re aware of it first. I’m on the same page as Miriam, and I appreciate her bringing this to our attention.

I’m especially curious to know why you considered the article “distressing for the young generation”? The vulnerable ones in this “young generation” are probably also honest. Honest about the issues they’re facing, and (probably even more so) honest about the issues our community is facing.

Bringing this issue to the attention of these teens encourages them to work on it and then become better versions of themselves — and healthier mothers for the next generation. I don’t see how being aware of an issue would trigger more issues or exaggerate existing issues in any way.

Why do I think so? I myself am a teen, a member of the “young generation,” and I’m also having my fair share of emotional struggles. To me the article felt empowering, and I even shared it with my therapist who agreed with its credibility.

I can see this article prompting someone who’s dealing with this “weight problem” and its misconceptions to seek help for their struggles. I can see this prompting those who look down at others because of their weight to challenge and reevaluate their false and unfair beliefs.

Most of all, I’m proud of the fact that our community (and Family First) isn’t shoving this issue under the rug, just because they’re scared of the repercussions. Bringing it out in the open can and will bring change.

In your letter, you insinuated that this may promote eating disorders, but I’m seeing the opposite. I think that an article like this one (and the improvement and growth that’ll happen because of it) can help to decrease those numbers and promote general health and growth and healing in our community.

Looking forward to reading more such articles in the future. Thanks, Miriam!



A Great Woman [Open Secrets / 826]

I was very dismayed to read “Closet Alcoholic,” about a woman whose husband was a secret alcoholic. First, let me say I applaud the anonymous woman who held herself and her family together through years of her husband’s addiction. I also support the notion that we never know what’s going on in someone else’s life; there are so many unsung heroes. However, there was one word in the article which validated one woman’s struggle, and simultaneously invalidated that of countless others. “A lesser woman, I imagine, would have booted her husband out.” [italics mine.]

The implication is that if a woman does “boot her husband out,” she is a “lesser woman.” This is a terrible misrepresentation.

For a woman to live with an alcoholic husband, she has to acquire a new set of tools. She has to learn how to handle intense and ongoing manipulation (even gaslighting), as the alcoholic’s need to drink is stronger than any other force in his life, and he will say or do anything to get this need met. She has to learn how to maintain her sanity and her emotional equilibrium.

In addition to being both mother and father, she has to learn how to protect her children from all the various manifestations and consequences of their father’s addiction, which could include emotional (even violent) outbursts, extreme instability and unpredictability, and, as the article stated, “money problems” and “debilitating, overwhelming challenges that we never in our wildest dreams could have imagined.”

These aren’t topics covered in kallah classes. To acquire the tools to do all this, you need a therapeutic process and support system designed specifically for this set of challenges. Any individual who enters and stays in this process is a hero. Eventually, when you’re far enough along on your journey, you then need to decide whether or not you and the children are better off in the marriage or out of it.

Obviously, this has to be a very well-thought-out decision, made together with daas Torah, a therapeutic team, and community support. If the heartbreaking decision is to divorce, this doesn’t make you a “lesser woman.” You’re not “booting her husband out”; you’re doing ratzon Hashem.

The message that guarding her husband’s privacy makes this woman more heroic is also a great disservice to those living with addiction in their house. Often, part of what allows an alcoholic to keep drinking is the way his environment supports it. For example, if his mother calls to find out why her son didn’t come to his brother’s bar mitzvah (he was passed out on the garage floor), saying he had the flu is covering for him, protecting him from the consequences of his own actions; this is enabling. A healthy response might be, “I’d rather not say; perhaps you should ask him yourself.” If she lies on his behalf, she’s helping perpetuate his addiction.

Although for the sake of brevity I’m oversimplifying, my point is that keeping addiction secret is usually not the answer. In fact, needing to keep parts of their lives hidden adds to the feelings of shame of the entire family.

If you’re dealing with a spouse battling addiction, or if you’re the person who needs help with addiction or codependency, please reach out for help.

Shoshana Schwartz

Addiction and Codependency Specialist

EFT Advanced Practitioner

Equine Assisted Therapy


Overweight Singles Are Very Alone [We Have a Weight Problem / Issue 826]

I’m an older single girl and also overweight and I always love that Family First remembers singles and prints articles that speak to us. But to be completely honest, being an overweight single in our society makes one feel more alone than being a regular single (I did my time as thin and single so I know the feelings), and I wished someone would address this specific subcategory of singles.

We’ve all had our share of dumb lines said to us. One relative once told me in desperation, “Why don’t you just starve yourself and then eat your heart out once you get married?!”

Another relative looked at me solemnly and said, “Do you want to turn out nebach like_______ (overweight older single relative).?”

Oh, don’t forget the shadchan who told me that the guy said no to me after three dates because he wanted a girl like me, just not me, and she decided he meant a girl who’s not overweight. I cried so hard and just writing it now hurts. That was over ten years ago.

I’m grateful I’m at a place where I recognize that Hashem has a plan. And I’m able to be assertive and call someone out for being rude or inappropriate. Some people lack boundaries and social skills.

Miriam’s article was everything I wish I could have written plus more. And it was so inspiring to hear that there is at least one guy who had no issue with marrying an overweight girl. That means there must be more. (I secretly imagine a shadchan who has a roster of these guys. Now that’s one shadchan I happily would agree to meet!)
Anonymous, overweight, and single


I Almost Died for Others [We Have a Weight Problem / Issue 826]

When I read Miriam (Pascal) Cohen’s article, all the pain that I’ve endured through my childhood and beyond due to my weight, came rushing forward like floodwaters bursting through a dam.

Starting in first grade, I had an overweight teacher who pulled me out of class to review the alef-beis. She was eating a grapefruit. She told me, “You see how Morah eats healthy? Maybe you should also start eating like that.” She then handed me some chocolate chips like she always did when I read nicely. I was so confused and hurt.

When I was in eighth grade, my mother once took me to the doctor. He weighed me and looked at me with disgust and told me, “You have to lose weight if you want to look attractive.” Can you imagine?!

And then there were the boys who used to yell “Fatso” from the bus, and the drunk man on Purim in my grandmother’s hallway yelling after me “Di grubber!” The stories are endless.

I also had some relatives who scared me about heart issues and diabetes. I had panic attacks about that at night.

When I got older, I started dieting and lost lots of weight. In 11th grade, I lost 80 lbs. because I was looking for love and acceptance and that’s how I got it. Everyone was gushing over me, especially my awful principal who never had a nice thing to say to me. All of a sudden she loved my cheekbones!

I got married at 20. Baruch Hashem, I was blessed with beautiful children right away, and the pounds started packing on again. After my third baby, I was fed up with my size and very self-conscious about my weight. I decided to get lap-band surgery done. It was the worst mistake of my life.

In the beginning everything was okay, but then, as my band was tightened, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I was so sick and malnourished, I lost 170 lbs. in one year! I lost my sunny and humorous personality. I had no energy for anything. My sisters kept telling me, “Please stop.” But I couldn’t let go of that sweet feeling of being thin.

When I was in my ninth month, I suddenly felt my heart racing and that I was about to collapse. I couldn’t feel the baby, either. My husband was bathing the kids, and I told him, “I’m running to the emergency room, I’m not even waiting for you.”

When I arrived, they did blood tests, and suddenly I had five doctors surrounding me. I was severely and dangerously dehydrated from all the throwing up. My potassium levels were so low they started me on intravenous. I was transferred to the ICU. My kidneys weren’t working, so I needed a catheter to clean my body out. The OB was so worried, she placed a C-section cart right by my bed in case of emergency.

The baby wasn’t in danger, but I was. They tried getting me to swallow food, but my body would resist, and everything just came back up.

After a week, they decided to send me home with a PICC line so the baby and I would have proper nourishment since I wasn’t able to swallow.

Slowly I trained myself to drink and eat again, and after a week, they decided to remove the PICC line. My body was so malnourished that in one week I gained 20 lbs. from the nourishment I got through the PICC line. (When the body starves, it holds on to whatever it gets so it doesn’t go into starvation mode again.)

After I gave birth, I decided it was time to remove my band. I realized how detrimental it was to continue vomiting like that. Right after I removed it, I slipped and broke my foot. I gained 50 lbs., not from eating excessively, but because my body was holding on to the calories, and I wasn’t moving much.

The sheer terror that followed of people seeing me again 50 lbs. heavier took over my life, until I decided enough is enough. Why do I have to live for others? I almost died for others! Can I just be happy in my own skin and disregard how others judge me?

As I started gaining more and more confidence, I realized that people started liking me for who I was because I started liking myself for who I was.

So buy yourself that dress, even before you lose those 60 lbs., because you’re worth it! And once you love yourself for who you are, you’ll feel an inner peace, trust me. You’ll feel like a different person. Know that Hashem created us with the same precious neshamah and no one is better than you because of their size.



Kudos to Shani Greenfield [On Your Mark / Issue 826]

I’ve lived in Israel for the past couple of years and have been fortunate to be a recipient of a wig from Shani. From the minute I called the gemach to schedule an appointment and get fitted for a new wig, I was treated with dignity and respect as if I were a full-paying customer in a sheitel salon.

Aside from that, I felt like Shani really gave me her time in choosing the perfect wig and then working to make the cut just right. It can definitely be intimidating when a wig is outdated, yet buying a brand-new one isn’t an option for a lot of people. Since then, I have made sure to collect wigs from my family and friends. I’m always shocked how many wigs are just sitting in closets, and how beneficial they could be if they were sent to Eretz Yisrael and given to those who can’t afford it.

Specifically, I’ve heard of kallahs who couldn’t afford anything and walked out with beautiful wigs from the gemach. Shani has an amazing hand with wigs and knows how to refurbish the wigs into a beautiful new piece.

A grateful recipient


What a Zechus [Tempo / Issue 825]

I feel compelled to write in response to Miriam Milstein’s magnificent article about her sister Chayala a”h.

Chayala was a beautiful girl inside and out. Her smile literally lit up the room.

The way the whole extended family spoke to and about Chayala was nothing short of extraordinary because it was so normal.

The Shabbos of Chayala’s yahrtzeit, I found myself at a kiruv program in Washington, D.C., where my family has had the zechus to spend the last 17 years, together with Chayala’s family. I couldn’t help but think while I read this beautiful article about how fitting it was for Chayala’s parents and siblings to spend the Shabbos of her yahrtzeit doing kiruv, because the family came back to America and settled there because of Chayala.

Her neshamah should have an aliyah and may her family find nechamah.

With much admiration for a family we learn from every day,



It’s Not Always Complicated [Home Again / Issue 825]

I read your article about successful second marriages and think it may have scared a lot of people — which is simply unfair.

Some families are more complicated than others. Some are less so.

I process quickly and so did my family. When I told my children I was dating, they were fine with it. I even asked them to tell me if they had an issue with it, and they said no.

Can we accept that every person is different? Some people are ready quickly and are good at making things work. We were a healthy family before with good problem-solving skills and healthy communication — why should it be different the second time around?

No, I don’t think I need therapy or a financial prenup and all that. Yes, I do think a rav is important.

I think some families are probably more conducive to making it work than others.

Happily Married


Is It Selfish to Want My Mother? [Home Again / Issue 825]

I am 17 years old and my mother recently remarried and moved to the city her new husband is from.

It didn’t make sense for me to move in 12th grade and so my mother had me move in with a married sibling. In this short time, I not only lost the warmth of a mother nearby but also a physical home and privacy.

Do you wonder why I’m resentful? When I shared my feelings with my mother’s sister, she told me that I was being unfair, and holding my mother back. Since her new husband has many young children living at home, it didn’t make sense for him to move, and he’s so perfect for my mother….

So it’s selfish to want to have a parent living at home with me?

It’s so sad that my mother could sideline me like this and abandon me in this way and I’m expected to be the “supportive” one. I feel like our connection is not the same and it will never be. I miss my mother. I wish her family would understand that my anger is also a deep sadness at this loss.



Always Hope [Home Again / Issue 825]

Thank you for covering the topic of remarriage.

As someone who remarried and divorced for many of the reasons the article lists, I want to offer hope. I remarried again after three years during which I went for a lot of therapy and learned to live a full robust life on my own. I remarried almost five years ago, for the third time, and I know many like me.

For some of us, it does take the third time to get it right, so if your remarriage failed, know that your life is not over — you can very much succeed.

Name Withheld


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 828)

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