They’ve forged their paths and molded a chain that connects them to children and grandchildren who keep paying it forward. As bearers of family legacies who illuminate the journey ahead, how do they view this new generation of seekers?
Rebbetzin Estelle (Samber) Feldman is a graduate of Shulamith School and of the Fashion Institute of Technology, and founding teacher of the Atlanta Hebrew Academy and Yeshiva High School. She was the rebbetzin in Atlanta for forty years, and currently lives in Israel.
Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg has been a community rav for more then three decades and is currently the rav of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center in Cedarhurst. He is a prolific writer, author, and lecturer.
Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller is an outstanding scholar and lecturer of Jewish studies. She has been a full-time faculty member of Neve Yerushalayim College in Jerusalem since 1980 and is particularly well known for her courses devoted to the role of women in Judaism.
Rabbi Avrohom Katz, rabbi, author, lecturer, and educator, was born in Leeds, UK, studied and obtained semichah in Gateshead Yeshivah, and served as rav of Pinner, near London. After teaching in Gateshead “Old Sem” for ten years, he opened Gateshead “New Seminary,” Beis Chaya Rochel, 22 years ago.
Rebbetzin Shoshana Perr is the wife of Rabbi Yechiel Perr, rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva of Far Rockaway. She is the longtime program director at Camp Bnos, has practiced family and adolescent therapy for over three decades, and supervises social workers at Counter Force.
Rabbi Shimon Russell L.C.S.W is a noted psychotherapist, speaker and mechanech, formerly of Lakewood, presently living in Israel.
Dr. Meir Wikler is a psychotherapist and family counselor in full-time private practice, with offices in Brooklyn and Lakewood.
Besides the obvious explosion of technology, what challenges face the younger generation today that you can’t fathom having dealt with?
Technology is the symptom. The challenge of the younger generation is that they have no battle to fight. They don’t have to fight the Haskalah, they don’t have to fight to keep Shabbos, and they (generally) don’t have to fight their parents about learning in kollel versus earning a living. Some are involved in the “fight” of kiruv or the striving for excellence in Torah learning, but others feel an emptiness. The battle for self-protection against failing morals is so subtle that they find it hard to connect to. Technology and social media are an escape from the emptiness — if life is full and purposeful, there’s no need for an escape.
What do you admire about today’s parents?
It’s very impressive how much today’s parents seek help and guidance. When I speak about parenting or marriage, young parents come in droves and they are listening, open-minded. The same is true in my professional practice: Young people are coming to therapy today for prevention — to proactively set in place a good life for themselves, and not just to resolve a crisis. I deeply admire the young parents who are seeking help prior to their being in parenting crisis.
I admire their tremendous mesirus nefesh in shouldering heavy financial burdens in order to give their children a wonderful chinuch.
Secondly, I admire the way young people today sacrifice for tzorchei tzibbur. Look at all the heroic Chaverim, Shomrim, and Hatzolah members who give up their days and nights. Fifty years ago, we didn’t have that.
Life has become less predictable and there are so many demands, at all hours. These young people — and their wives, of course — are so commendable. You hear people complain that there are no younger askanim, but I disagree. They are rising to the challenges and shouldering our people’s burdens. Just give them a chance.
What’s the single thing that made you most connected to your family in the long term?
I think it’s always being involved and in touch with whatever they were going through in their lives. I fostered their independence, always encouraging them to think on their own and make decisions together with their spouses, but I was always there, always communicating, always offering unconditional love.
In a world that suffers from alienation of the youth, I have found that identifying with a certain group, with their minhagim and lifestyle, makes it easier to raise children. Particularly if you can raise them within an environment where others share the lifestyle and the challenges. Being attached to a solid community and living my life in identification with its ideals has helped me build connections with my children too.
What is the single thing that helped you connect most to your community?
What has made me feel most connected to my community is my membership and participation in my shul. I’ve been a member of the Novominsker beis medrash for over 40 years, and have a kesher with the Rebbe shlita and with the other mispallelim. Davening, learning, attending shiurim, and having a connection with a rav can serve as an anchor connecting families to their community. Without “belonging” to a particular shul, people can feel adrift, lost, and isolated — even if their area is heavily Jewishly populated.
I came to Atlanta from Boro Park as a 20-year-old bride. Boro Park, back in those pre-chassidic days, was half Jewish and half Italian; my parents’ home was a little island of strength. But they had taught me openness, and that helped me connect. Obviously, my husband and I were very observant, yet at first there were barely any Shabbos-observant families in the community we served. We had to firmly believe that we were living in the only right way, yet love these people, understand them, and connect to them. We had to be open and uncritical, accepting the people of our community no matter how they behaved, while always believing that there is hope, and that people change.
What about your children makes you proud?
I’m proud that they try to live their lives with honesty, integrity, and conviction.
If you want your family to stand for one thing or have one legacy, what would it be?
That they should live their lives not for themselves but for others, for Klal Yisrael. Everyone can become part of the tzibbur by finding out what they can do for the community. We need every person — no Jew can live for himself alone.
(Excerpted from Linked, Succos 5780)