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Inbox: Issue 1004

“We might want to rethink ‘outlets’ as something optional for children in mainstream yeshivos and begin relating to them as fundamental needs”

It Can Be Done [Inbox / Issue 1003]

Screen Safer is a great column that provides a nuanced picture of the delicate balance that parents, children, and educators need to maintain while navigating the challenges of technology. But I agree with last week’s letter writer “Don’t Perpetuate Stereotypes” that while the advice in the column was clearly based on real principles of chinuch and common sense, it’s somewhat concerning for a technology specialist to become the parenting advisor, spiritual guide, and psychologist — all against the backdrop of “Give in to the need for smartphones, or your child will go off the derech/your relationship with your child will deteriorate, etc.”

There are many happy, thriving, connected families where parents have held tight to their values and not allowed/enabled their children to have smartphones — and have simultaneously maintained beautiful relationships with their children. Yes, there’s a lot of work involved, as there always is in any relationship, especially between parents and children. But that doesn’t justify the very real, albeit mistaken impression given that parents should be cautioned against holding strong to these principles.

Parents should know that there are many happy, thriving families where parents have managed to follow a very different path, and it may be valuable to invest effort connecting with them and getting an inside glimpse at how they live their lives, and the work they’ve put into relationship building.



Libelous Assertion [The Conversation Continues — Where’s the Gratitude? / Issue 1003]

One of the letters in response to the Double Take on seminary applications brought up the topic of ingratitude. As an example, the writer suggested that children who were lucky enough to escape the horrors of the Holocaust on a Kindertransport would cross the road to avoid Rabbi Schonfeld. The letter left me shocked. I don’t understand how you could print such lashon hara; it is libelous to both those survivors and the late great rabbi himself. I find it shocking that Mishpacha’s excellent editorial board allowed something that was maybe said once and can be taken out of context to be printed.

Your own article (Before It’s Too Late, Issue 999), in which children who were on the Kindertransport share their memories, refutes this claim. In fact, my own mother was on the 1946 transport; she takes every opportunity to thank Rabbi Schonfeld and credits him for allowing her to rebuild her life in Britain. She takes great pride (at 92, kein ayin hara) in knowing that her grandchildren have attended a school founded by Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld. Our own mechutanim have a family member who was also saved on a Kindertransport, and I have never heard of anyone “crossing the street to avoid him [Rabbi Schonfeld].” I think this statement needs to be retracted ASAP and an apology issued.

In a recent interview with a grandson of Rabbi Schonfeld, my mother recognized herself in a photo of the 1946 Kindertransport. If she had had the opportunity to meet Rabbi Schonfeld in person as an adult, she surely would have crossed the street to thank him!

Aliza Hodges

London, UK


Maximizing Charity [Give like Gottesman / Issue 1003]

Yashar koyach to Avi Schick for an excellent piece, envisioning a new stage and scale for frum philanthropy and encouraging prominent Jewish donors to follow a “dream big” approach to tzedakah. In recent times, non-Orthodox and non-Jewish philanthropists have displayed a sky-is-the-limit approach to giving, as demonstrated by the Buffet and Gates’ “Giving Pledge” initiative and Ruth Gottesman’s magnificent gift to Albert Einstein Medical School. These vast donations viably address wide, systematic and enduring challenges in society, health, and education in an unprecedented way.

In the context of the frum world, we can only imagine the potential applications that mega gifts could have in addressing core community causes such as the tuition crisis, the shidduch crisis, and long-term financial support for Torah learners. It is clear why the author called Jewish philanthropists to emulate Gottesman-like examples.

Schick highlighted the importance of large-scope giving, but didn’t address cause selection, planning, and performance-monitoring. These are crucial elements for effective large-scale tzedakah.

I’m the chairman of a charity organization that is rapidly growing. We are blessed with a diverse group of donors, and our board is comprised of both frum and non-frum foundations. We witness how research-driven decision-making, detailed budgeting and ongoing performance monitoring has boosted our results to a different level. Running a charity with professional tools and accountability is a key to maximizing the return on our shared investment (in time, effort, and capital). Moreover, those tools enable us to raise funds (government and private) by providing full transparency and creating long-term partnerships.

Frum donors are fast to commit and identify naturally with a cause. Moreover, they tend to be involved in many charities and causes simultaneously. Yet, frum donors are often not as interested in spending time on reviewing what happens with their tzedakah gelt once it’s wired in.

Why does it matter? Charities are holy economic enterprises. If one doesn’t run them tightly, they tend to deviate from their declared goals, have a reduced impact, and spend their resources unwisely.

I would like to suggest that perhaps the most important lesson to draw from secular and non-Jewish philanthropy is the business-like seriousness and hands-on management they devote to charity. If we deploy these methods in frum charities, we will discover we can do so much more with available capital that already exists but is currently being underutilized.

Ori Eisenberg

Chairman, JBH-KodCode


Boys Need Outlets [True Account — Smoke Screen / Issue 1003]

I appreciate that you published the True Account about the mother who shared her son’s journey with vaping and his subsequent medical crisis. I recommend that this account be sent to every mechanech and every yeshivah, where it will hopefully facilitate healthy discussion.

Vaping is a huge nisayon for our bochurim, and while some think Covid is the culprit, I believe this challenge predates Covid and certainly continues past. We might want to rethink “outlets” as something optional for children in mainstream yeshivos and begin relating to them as fundamental needs. If our boys were taught and encouraged to develop their strengths in areas like music, sports, art, cooking, woodworking, etc., I believe we would see less vaping and less drug use in general, and most likely, balanced boys who are learning well and using their energy to thrive.

Our bochurim are searching for connection and relationship. Let’s give it to them, and give them tools to thrive.

Yael Walfish, LCSW

Therapist, Nurtured Heart Approach Trainer


Our Greatest Asset [Not in Hashem’s Name / Issue 991]

I was so moved by Rabbi Sklare’s column describing our exigent need to connect with Hashem as a loving G-d, especially in a time of suffering. For living without this reality is, as he says, “the greatest tragedy of atheism. How can we bear the harshness of life if it is in fact random and devoid of value?”

His words resonated with me on so many levels. But they also penetrated that much further when shortly after, I read Gedalia Guttentag’s portrayal of the Lonely Liberal Jew. “Torah... gives us clear reference points that provide a sense of perspective and comfort in the worst of times,” he says, but for the Jew void of Torah, “What is there left to clutch on to?”

We can hear Mr. Guttentag’s assessment not only as a call to enlighten these isolated, disappointed Jews who have lost any anchor of comfort, but also to be “mekarev” ourselves. Perhaps we need to purify our own attitudes toward the many aspects of Jewish life we may not particularly enjoy.

How often do I relate to mitzvos as burdens instead of opportunities? “I’ve got way too much going on for Purim, can’t even start thinking about Pesach… I’m really not looking forward to all that cleaning... and what will we eat for a whole week before... they should call it the holiday of slavery….” Guilty, guilty, guilty. But how lucky are we! All of these “burdens” are our constant and inescapable reminders that we are a small section of the world population who have somewhere and Someone to turn toward always, even when tragedy strikes.

A friend once shared that she used to work for an organization that offered support to families of children with serious illness. She said she once asked her rav about how to discuss weighty topic with parents of ill children. “When I’m trying to give chizuk to the frum families, we share a common language. But how can I give words of support with the secular parents?” she asked him.

His answer was sobering. “If they don’t have a connection to Hashem, unfortunately, there isn’t much to say.”

He was not being judgmental — just stating a fact. The lack of connection, as Rabbi Sklare said, is the greatest tragedy of atheism indeed.

Mindel Kassorla


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1004)

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