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Inbox: Issue 1002

“I have seen firsthand how the definition of the term ‘top’ has grown warped over the years, especially among girls”


We’re All Worthy [The Best Policy / Double Take — Issue 1001]

The Double Take in last week’s Mishpacha struck a raw nerve demonstrating to readers with great clarity how far gone and confused we have become in this bitter galus. As a mother with children who have already completed their years of schooling as well as others who are still in elementary and high school, I have seen firsthand how the definition of the term “top” has grown warped over the years, especially among girls. The elitism that has insidiously crept into our educational systems has wreaked havoc on countless families and ripped away youthful idealism from many young hearts.

The fact is, a straight-A student who has constantly been fed praise for her inborn brain power rather than her middos and interpersonal skills, does not necessarily make a good wife, mother, or even colleague. A child who was lauded for her family’s wealth or yichus during her formative years often enters adulthood with a sense of entitlement that can be destructive down the road of life. The fact that so-called “plain” children become “defective” by dint of them not being “elite” in any way is far from Torah hashkafah.

Hashem created us as works in progress. We are supposed to try our best to reach higher levels during each stage of life. The elitism in our system which smacks of nothing less than gaavah itself is actually the antithesis of all the maamarei Chazal and mefarshim these so-called “top” students have been trained to parrot all these years. Malki, the protagonist in the story, did nothing so terrible as to stamp her with the mark of Cain and be locked out of seminary. She was a normal teenager struggling to grow and find herself as is normal for adolescents everywhere. Might I say that (gasp) she was human?

I daresay that in the quest to reach the coveted “top,” educators and institutions and in specific, seminaries, may have won the battle but lost the war. Yes, their graduates may spout flawless résumés that bring the hanhalah nothing but glory, but what about the core of these girls? Are they emotionally resilient, flexible, kind, and nurturing? Now that they’ve left formal schooling and grades don’t matter anymore, are they truly ready to tackle the vicissitudes of life?

Parents and teachers, I ask you to honestly reexamine your definition of true success. Marks, money, yichus, and other external trappings should be relegated to the sidelines where they belong. Let Yiddishkeit be embraced from an authentic place even if that comes with questions and struggles. I for one determine a “top” girl as one who is striving to grow in each situation with whatever tools she was given and with whatever family she was assigned to from Above. We are all the children of Hashem and we all have innate worth embedded within us. No girl leaving the school system should feel otherwise.

A Concerned Mother in Klal Yisrael


Jump, Don’t Fall [The Best Policy / Double Take — Issue 1001]

Can I add a third voice to the Double Take story?

And then the rejection letter came... Malki was not devastated! She did not lock herself into the room to cry and did not refuse anyone because she needed no comfort! She knew with clarity that everything in this world is a Master Plan run by a loving caring Father Who knows which seminary (or no seminary) is best for her. She was also not upset at Mrs. Kramer for the negative info. She knew that no human being can affect her whatsoever. She also knew that people are pawns in Hashem’s hands doing what He thinks is best for us!

This third version of the story will obviously never happen unless... Malki’s parents ingrained in her concepts of bitachon from when she was a toddler. To all the wonderful Yiddishe parents out there, I want to ask a question. Are we teaching the idea of bitachon to our children? If your answer is yes, then think again. Emunah — knowing Hashem — is definitely from the first mitzvos taught. Usually, it stops there. Bitachon — trust and reliance — is not taught. If our children would have real trust they would be able to tap into that feeling when faced with a challenge. (And who doesn’t have challenges?) Life is full of potholes. Let’s teach our kids to jump over them rather than falling in.

R. Nussenzweig


Ask First [The Best Policy / Double Take — Issue 1001]

I enjoyed reading this past week’s Double Take about the teacher who was “forced” to tell the seminary about a previous history from one of her students. As I was reading it, my heart was breaking for the high school girl, and when I got to the other side, I totally understood why the teacher did what she had to do.

However, as I was rethinking the entire story, I realized that there is something seriously wrong here.

There are explicit halachos in hilchos lashon hara about what to do in such a situation. Just because a teacher/seminary counselor might not be trusted in the future, this may not give her a right to damage a student.

I feel that in such a situation a competent rav must be consulted to discuss what the counselor is allowed to say.

This may have ramifications on her job and she may not be trusted in the future but that doesn’t give her the right to violate Jewish law.

Just to clarify, I am not saying that she is wrong, as I am not well versed in these laws, but I definitely feel like that is what has to be done in this situation.

On this note, many times we have conflicting emotions and we are not sure what to do. This might be the proper time to express the importance of having a rav to whom one can always ask questions and not just live life through emotions.

Michael Weiss


Out of Touch

[The Best Policy / Double Take — Issue 1001]

I sincerely hope your Double Take last week was just for entertainment.

My seventh daughter has just applied to seminary this year, and in all my years raising daughters, I have never come across a mechaneches or seminary advisor who doesn’t want her students to get into seminary. They advise the girls to apply to seminaries that are a good fit for them and will push and use all their connections to ensure that the girls are accepted. If a girl is doing well and flourishing, no high school or seminary will hold against them a blip that happened three years before, especially if the girl has moved on and is doing beautifully.

Here in Montreal where I live, we have an unbelievable team that works their hardest to ensure that every girl gets into a seminary that is a perfect fit for her. Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to find the story realistic.

Esty Gestetner 



Thanks for Filtering [The Best Policy / Double Take — Issue 1001]

Kudos to Yudit for giving over truthful information regarding a student’s seminary application. We parents spend thousands of dollars to send our daughters to seminary in Eretz Yisrael. We hope and daven that our girls will be in a safe and insular environment away from the dangerous technology out there. One single girl who was exposed to schmutz and still has contact with her friends can educate her roommates and friends to things they don’t have to know about. Kol hakavod to schools that choose whom to accept and whom to reject.

Name Withheld


Eternal Bond [The Power of Kaddish / Issue 1000]

The most impactful and emotional Kaddish I ever participated in was the one for my younger sister, Naomi Malka bas Raphael. Our family gathered together on her seventh yahrtzeit for a seudah and siyum my husband made on Maseches Kiddushin. Joining the minyan and responding to the Kaddish were Naomi’s husband, two sons-in-law (whom she never met), four nephews, two brothers-in-law, and one brother, along with her daughters and sisters. Even though Naomi a”h is in one world and we are in another, in that moment, with our family Kaddish, our worlds touched each other.

It’s beautiful when strangers come together to say Kaddish, but it is infinitely more precious when a family joins together; they are the living memorials to the person who has passed away. That transcendent Kaddish moment is what gives me hope to go on until Mashiach comes and we will be reunited once again.



Taped Together [Counting Every Day / Cut ’N Paste — Issue 1000]

Dear Reva,

I think we are sisters in tape. I have been taping for several weeks now, after finding out about the Hostages on the Heart movement from a friend.

When I saw Rachel Goldberg’s heartfelt plea, it touched me deeply. Living in the Diaspora is difficult enough, but during times of tzaar, especially in Eretz Yisrael, it’s that much more painful. When I tape, I feel connected. It’s how I start my day, before saying Acheinu and going to work.

I’ve found that the tape goes farther than expressing my feelings; it has made an impact on others and creates awareness and empathy. I’ve had several interactions and interesting stories with strangers in public places who were so moved when they noticed the tape. They are either family members or friends of those held hostage. One woman I met is a friend of the Goldberg family; I asked her to please tell Rachel that we in the US are still davening.

On Erev Shabbos, I take an extra piece of tape and put it next to my leichter. It serves as a good reminder that there are those whose Shabbos isn’t yet a Yom Menuchah.

I daven fervently and hope that soon you and I can rip all those pieces off the wall as we embrace our dear brothers and sisters, and each one will no longer be just a number on a piece of tape, but a whole person in body and soul.

Judy Landman

Baltimore, MD


No Longer a Given [Before They Slip through the Cracks / Issue 1000]

It was heartwarming to read about the incredible work being performed by Mekusharim to help Israelis who have moved to the US maintain and sustain a connection to Judaism.

It is important to mention the organization called Chinuch Yehudi in regard to this issue. Chinuch Yehudi was founded by the venerable askan Rabbi Chaim Bernstein of Waterbury, CT, under the guidance of Rabbi Sholom Kamenetsky, who perceived the unique challenges facing Israelis who have moved abroad. What was a given for them and their children back in Eretz Yisrael, specifically in regard to a Jewish education, has no guarantee at all in the US. Chinuch Yehudi is geared to funding and placement of Israeli children in Jewish day schools and yeshivos across the country and has baruch Hashem been extremely successful. The ripple effects have gone far beyond the children themselves and have spread to their families and communities, as well. Chinuch Yehudi can be found at https://chinuchyehudiusa.org.

May we merit the days of “Veheishiv lev avos al banim v’lev banim al avosam.


Lakewood, NJ


Chatzer Strauss Today [For the Record / Issue 1000]

I always love reading the For the Record column and am consistently impressed with the authors’ extensive knowledge and research.

I was excited to see mention of Chatzer Strauss in the recent column about the travels of the founders of the mussar movement. Until recently, I (as I suspect is the case for many of the readers) had never heard of this historic courtyard tucked away in the Musrara neighborhood of Yerushalayim, right outside the Old City walls. Yet this small courtyard was the birthplace of Eretz Yisrael’s mussar movement and served as the home and center of learning of some of the greatest mussar giants of a century ago, including, as mentioned in the article, Rav Itzele Blazer and Rav Naftali Amsterdam, as well as Rav Simcha Zissel Broide, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, and others. (In fact, some speculate that the Arabic name of the neighborhood, Musrara, is named for the mussar yeshivah in its midst.)

I’ve been researching Chatzer Strauss as part of a project being undertaken by Yeshiva Nesivos Ahron, a yeshivah for American bochurim located on the site of the Chatzer. While one can visit the site today on the Nesivos Ahron campus, the yeshivah is currently working to restore Chatzer Strauss, and plans to open a visitors center soon, as well as launch a website with information about this forgotten historic jewel.

Gila Arnold


What About the Boys? [They’re All Our Children / Issue 999]

I read with interest the responses to the article “They’re All Our Children,” and found myself wondering, But are they really? As a parent of a special-needs son in an established in-town community, I found myself nodding in agreement with the writer who pointed out the dearth of help for special-needs boys. While we are grateful for the efforts of the organizations that try to help as much as they can, there is a basic need for help with special-needs boys, in my community and in many others like it, that is simply not being met.

While girls with special needs have the benefit of the community high school girls who do a prolific amount of chesed around the clock and work with these children, the boys with special needs have no high school cohort that can really work with them meaningfully. As a result, these boys are dependent on the very few older boys — if any — in the community who are available and interested in working consistently with the special-needs boys population.

While there are some high school boys (especially from some more modern schools, which deserve a tremendous amount of credit for encouraging their boys to be involved in this chesed) who are willing to help out, they are few and far between. In the meantime, as special-needs boys get older, and are no longer in the younger elementary school grades where girls will still work with them, they often enter an unbearable phase of social isolation and loneliness, stuck at home with few social opportunities.

I, and parents like myself, have reached out multiple times to our local organizations, but while they acknowledge the existence of the problem, they seem to be unable to produce any actionable movement on it. As our boys get older and find themselves more and more isolated from meaningful social interaction with boys from the mainstream community, parents like myself implore the community to help. Look up and down your block. Is there a family with a boy with special needs? If you have a son close to his age or a bit older, perhaps you can facilitate a connection between your son and the boy down the block who would love a connection. In this time of achdus and chesed for Klal Yisrael, perhaps we should remember those next door and down the block as well.

And to the organizations who are well aware of this need but seem unable to produce meaningful change on this front: Perhaps you can collaborate and work together to strategize a meaningful solution to this widespread challenge that bridges many communities? Klal Yisrael is capable of great things, and we look forward to help with this ongoing challenge.

A Grateful Reader


Real People Work It Out [Hijacked Connection / Double Take — Issue 999]

Something bothered me about the Double Take featuring Aidel, a mechaneches without Internet access, taking advantage of her neighbor Nina’s Internet. The unwritten premise was that it’s impossible for someone to survive without Internet access at home, and those who do choose to do so will need to come on to their neighbors for this vital need. The unspoken message was that living Internet-free isn’t realistic.

Can I present a more accurate picture? The mechaneches without Internet access embraces that lifestyle. She doesn’t get pictures of her grandkids via email. She does her shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. She does her banking by phone or at a branch. She gets shidduch resumes via fax machine.

What about that government form that absolutely must be filled out online? That is where pay-per-hour Internet service comes in. (For example, upstairs from Bagel Nosh in Lakewood is a computer kiosk called Outworq which provides computer use for a fee.)

How can I be so sure? I live on a block where most of my neighbors are either learning or in chinuch. Many, if not most of them, have no devices with Internet access. I personally do have filtered Internet in my home, and the last time any of them asked to use my computer was at least two years ago. So rather than feeling taken advantage of, I respect my neighbors’ technology choices.



We’re Not Looking for an Internet Goy [Hijacked Connection / Double Take — Issue 999]

I’ve actually been on both sides of this situation. For a long time, I was that neighbor — the only one in the building — with Internet. All the un-techy, non-Internet-savvy families would come to use my computer and yes, often need a lot of my help. I do remember sometimes not having time or feeling impatient as I helped, but I told myself over and over that I was doing a good thing by helping them keep their homes and children as pure as possible. Eventually, I, too, was able to take the leap and cancel my Internet. But as we all well know, it’s pretty much impossible to live without Internet completely. With many little children, I can’t always be running to Internet kiosks to take care of the more time-sensitive tasks. The neighbors in my new building have always made me feel entirely welcome and are sincere in their desire to help me out. From the way they react when I ask to come to their homes for Internet use, they seem to harbor zero resentment or annoyance. I cannot describe how relieved this makes me feel. I know I have a place to go for “emergencies,” and I experience less frustration at the inconvenience of not having Internet at home — which makes it easier to keep keeping it out. Their welcoming attitude has saved me many times, as I knew I wouldn’t be a burden if I came over, sometimes even for a few hours. What also always makes me feel supported is when online group meetings or courses I’m part of have “Internet-free” options, ones which are offered with respect and understanding — not with a sigh of frustration and a tone of, “Why do you have to be so religious and outdated?” or “Just get with the program and stop inconveniencing everyone!” Those who have been able to take the step of removing Internet are not looking for an “Internet goy,” nor do they disapprove of those who are not able to take that step; they simply appreciate when people can be supportive and helpful.

While I fully agree with the letter writer who said “just communicate” and make boundaries, etc., what I also know is that very often chesed is not convenient. Those who are able to generously give of themselves with a full heart are truly holding up the world.

Leba Friedman


The Bully Pays the Price [Inbox / Issue 993]

I just read the letter from M.C. in Lakewood, and it’s sad that M.C. is still in pain at age 37 from the bullying he suffered as a kid. This shows how important it is to deal with the problem.

The solution for bullying is not “a slap in the face” nor does the bully necessarily need “help.” The answer is education. Kids and teens who bully others simply don’t understand the pain they cause, the consequences of their behavior, and the price they will pay (sometimes many, many years later).

It is the responsibility of every mechanech to teach how painful it is to the victim, the long-term damage they do to the victim and his family by bullying, and that any bully will pay a price for hurting others.

Hashem pays for bein adam l’chaveiro even in this world, and one day the bully will be tearing his hair out because of his actions. One day the bully will be searching around the world to be able to ask mechilah from his victims. Tell the kids and teens that anyone over 40 can testify that all those bullies as kids have terrible hardships later in life. Educate them with stories of people who bullied others when they were young and how they regret it.

They just need to be educated and told these facts.

Shmuel Dovid Pollak

Manchester, UK


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1002)

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