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Family First Inbox: Issue 888

“It’s a real shame to define beauty solely through the eyes of society, and to not develop our own opinion of what’s pretty” 

With a New Set of Eyes [A Perek a Day / Issue 887]

I just read your article on the OU’s Nach Yomi women’s program and was so fascinated by the backstory.

Last summer I felt that I needed a bucket list. All my children were at camp for eight weeks, and it was time to focus on some things I wanted to do. And while I absolutely wanted to have lots of fun (I did!), I also realized that I missed text-based learning.

I decided to begin with Sefer Yehoshua and then go as far as I could go until I would restart the cycle with others this winter. I can’t describe how perfect the 15-minute run time is. It’s deep, covers ground, and yet is so doable. I completed Yehoshua and then wound up taking a break and restarting with the new cycle and am now up to Shmuel I with them.

I found it helpful to buy the ArtScroll Neviim and follow along while listening, as I’m more of a visual than audio learner.

Aside from the many other current events lessons in Nach, there is also an incredible amount of leadership lessons from how Hashem criticizes or praises Yehoshua’s leadership actions, the Shoftim’s, Shaul’s…. I find myself in awe of how timeless Torah’s wisdom is and am so thankful that this program helped me reconnect with that and learn the Neviim I’d learned in my youth now with a new set of eyes.

Sarah Rivkah Kohn

Founder & Director, Links Family


Team You [The Impostor in the Mirror / Issue 886]

Lori Holzman’s article on impostor syndrome hit every note. Check, check, check. I nodded along as I read. And what I think it really boiled down to was, “We don’t give ourselves enough credit.”

When I married my husband, who is the youngest of six by a ten-year age gap, a real ben zekunim, he warned me, “I come with my own cheering squad.” Sure enough, at our wedding, the family all had visors made up that said Team Ephraim! They were his team, his cheering squad, his safety net.

Every woman needs a cheering squad. And if we don’t have one, we need to be it for ourselves. The same way Ephraim had it just by virtue of being the youngest and adorable, not for any accomplishment, we deserve that as well.

We need to look in the mirror and say, “Wow, you’re a mom of four, and you got dressed? And you went to work? And you did pretty good? And now you’re back home, making French toast? You’re incredible!” Who cares if Perfect Next-Door Neighbor has five kids and is making stuffed cabbage for dinner. You’re Incredible. Go, Team You!

Chaya B,

Passaic, NJ


Homemade and Authentic [To Be Honest / Issue 885]

I was moved by the To Be Honest that said that in our desire to have everything looking perfect, we’ve traded manufactured for homemade, and in doing so we’ve lost the authenticity of imperfect but made with love.

I was thinking about this a lot this past Purim. On Purim, there’s so much pressure to present that image of perfection. Lopsided homemade cookies and cute homemade costumes are nerdy; only elegantly prepackaged mishloach manos and store-bought costumes will do. And it’s a huge shame, because a lot of love is lost in the process, and as the To Be Honest writer said, everything feels “canned.”

Now that I’m over 40, I’ve started to care much less about external impressions, what people think of me, much to my children’s horror. So I made a simple but delicious mishloach manos with goodies I baked with my own hands and allowed one of my daughters, who’s more of a creative type, to make her own costume, even though it was inferior to the store-bought costumes her siblings wore. She was so proud of herself and so was I (of her and myself).



Worthwhile Trade-off [Inbox / Issue 885]

I’m writing in response to the recent Inbox letter in which the letter writer expressed horror at the idea of giving a healthy child melatonin on a regular basis. As a parent of a child who struggles immensely with falling asleep, I feel compelled to offer a different viewpoint.

Our decision wasn’t made lightly. It involved a discussion with our GP, who, while cautious, acknowledged the absence of proven side effects, as well as our independent research.

The catalyst for introducing melatonin came when our son’s teacher raised concerns about his fatigue and lack of focus in class, despite being a bright child. We realized at that point that our son’s difficulty falling asleep was affecting him in more ways than just his sheer frustration at bedtime at his inability to fall asleep (and believe me, we had tried everything, from giving him time for active outlets, to relaxing ones, to anything and everything in between), and our difficulty in getting him out of bed in the morning. It was having a big impact on him throughout the day.

Research linking exhaustion in children to emotional and developmental setbacks solidified our resolve. We did a three-week trial, during which we observed remarkable improvements in our son’s overall mood and academic performance.

Since then, we continue to challenge our decision by reducing the dosage and occasionally skipping it altogether (specifically on non-school nights). On the days our son doesn’t take melatonin, he still struggles to fall asleep.

Our nonscientific conclusion is that for some individuals, the natural production of this hormone is inadequate, necessitating supplementation. Is it an ideal solution? Perhaps not. But when weighed against the detrimental effects of chronic sleep deprivation in developing children, it may be a worthwhile trade-off.

I hope this fosters a more nuanced understanding of melatonin use in children. Ultimately, our priority remains the well-being and quality of life of our children.




We Train Mentors [Inbox / Issue 884]

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski ztz”l was quoted as saying, “Everyone needs four things to survive: food, water, shelter, and someone to blame.” While that is a wry observation of the human condition, we suggest that a real need, beyond the basics, is the need we all have for someone to talk to.

We have followed, with great interest, the letters in recent issues discussing the need of women to find mentorship within the frum community. Thankfully, the pool of frum professionals has grown, and there is an increasing number of sensitive therapists. What appears to be lacking is a very specific type of mentorship in which one can consult with hashkafically grounded women about the vicissitudes of life and explore issues through a solid Torah lens.

A woman may seek guidance and chizuk as she gets stuck in the quagmire of daily life and loses touch with her sense of direction or purpose. As she journeys through the stages of life, and grapples with disappointments, and perhaps an occasional test of faith, she may search for hope, inspiration, clarity, or direction from someone who really gets her and has something valuable to offer.

In 2018, Mrs. Aliza Bulow and Mrs. Rochel Goldbaum, both of Denver, Colorado, cofounded Core, along with a group of forward-thinking women from across the country. They dreamed of strengthening the fabric of the Jewish People by strengthening the women at its core. As part of that effort, they created the MMC (Mashpia/Mentor/Counselor) Training Program to train qualified women to provide that niche of Torah-based mentorship within the community. What emerged, and what is continuing to evolve, is an intense two-year training program that identifies insightful women who are tuned in to their communities, and strengthens their clinical, hashkafic, and communal skills so that they can better fill this role.

We’re privileged to stand at the helm of that educational initiative. At present, Core is training its second cohort of 50 women from seven countries. We envision a time in which every community will have access to Torah-based, well-trained mentors to journey through life with. We’re excited to be part of the solution to this very real need and look forward to collaborative efforts with other individuals and initiatives who share this passion. To learn more about Core or to reach out and share ideas please, reach out to us directly or visit Coretorah.org.

Mrs. Debbie Greenblatt

Mrs. Sara Eisemann

Directors of Education

Core MMC Training Program


A Life Lesson [Tempo / Issue 886]

Esty Heller’s done it again. Her story, The NCS (the Nonconformist Society). was sharp, funny, and clever, and with gentle, compassionate mussar. The takeaway was one that brought me back to age ten or 12, when I desperately wanted the shoes that the cool girls had — leather Shooks slippers for a whopping $95. I was even willing to pay with my own money. My father said he would give me some money toward them, but he first wanted me to understand what I was doing. He sat me down and explained that sometimes there are trends we don’t deviate from, lest we stand out awkwardly and appear socially off. His example was when everyone is wearing skinny ties, wider ties just look silly, and vice versa. But some trends, he said, especially when they first come out, are just for head-turning purposes. One message I understood is that we have to be honest with ourselves whether we want something because we genuinely like the style and feel it’s becoming, or because we feel we must look like everyone around us, and it’s linked to our self-esteem.

I got my Shooks, and I also got a lesson for life.

That story came to mind again as an adult when, about ten years ago, a seminary girl happened to be trying on a skirt in my home. It was midi length (way before midi was a thing) and though she was a really shtark girl in a very frum sem, she couldn’t bear to be seen in a skirt that was such a “nerdy length.” I tried hard to tell her how beautiful and classy she looked, but she just couldn’t see what I saw and decided to return the skirt.

Yes, there are times we must conform and look the part so we can fit in seamlessly. But it’s a real shame to define beauty solely through the eyes of society, and to not develop our own opinion of what’s pretty — independent of trends and styles.

Leba Friedman


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 888)

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