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Inbox:  Issue 853

"If someone asks me where my sister is, I can simply say that she is in rehab. There is no shame in that"


Responsibly Different [Our Image Problem / Issue 852]

Recently I have come across many articles in your magazine lamenting the fact that some large communities and groups across the Orthodox spectrum have been conducting mass gatherings. I have found many articles to be offensive and often off the mark. Careful consideration and research is necessary before cynically questioning the motives of large “fringe” groups and their leaders during these difficult times.

The leaders, namely chassidishe rebbes, have taken an approach that the physical, mental, emotional, and, mainly, spiritual health of their chassidim are of utmost importance. Furthermore, bringing devices with Internet into our homes, even with a strong filter, is antithetical to everything we have worked on until now. Therefore, it is a conscious decision on our part to continue with in-person occasions as opposed to virtual events — of course, with vigilant regard for physical health as well.

For example, at one such event, widespread Covid and antibody testing took place before the mass gathering and wedding, and participants with a negative antibody test were told to stay home.

The inspiration garnered at these events keeps participants spiritually connected, something we cannot afford to give up these days. It’s what we chassidim have been doing through the ages — staying responsibly different for the sake of our continuity.

B’siyata d’Shmaya, we are displaying equal or lower deaths and hospitalizations compared to the general community. May we climb out of this pandemic with the respect for our fellow Yidden intact.

Chayee Kohn, Brooklyn, NY

Save That Stimulus [Open Mic / Issue 852]

I have been following your fascinating discussion about frum finances with much interest. Mr. Winiarz points out that it is not just about the money, but also about understanding taxes and the basics of finance.

I couldn’t agree more. We have all heard about the third round of stimulus checks. For many, this is money they were able to survive without. I mentioned to friends that one could possibly set aside part of this money in a 529 (or other educational fund), bar mitzvah fund or chasunah fund. Some of them had never thought in that direction and had the “I got money, let me spend the money” attitude.

I am a rebbi in a yeshivah middle school in the mornings; I teach finances (based on the Mesila curriculum) in the afternoon. The boys look forward to the knowledge, insight, and spirited discussions. We teach budgeting, social responsibility, and how to save for the future. This is practical knowledge that will prepare them in a basic way for the future.

I will be putting part of my stimulus check away in a tax-free growth education fund to help pay tuition for my dear children in the future. Want to join me?

Looking Toward the Future

Questions to Ask Ourselves [Inbox / Issue 851]

Since I am not a regular reader of Mishpacha (generally, it is a special Yom Tov treat in our home), I did not see the original “Fuzzy Math” article, but I did see the Inbox letter about inflated pricing of goods and services in our community.

I totally feel this woman’s “self-inflicted pain.” Yet there was one sentence in that letter that left me wondering: You state that “the matzah our family likes has always been on the more expensive side.” Might your family consider spending $22 per pound (instead of $45 or $68) on matzah that they like a bit less? Would your daughter’s friend consider spending $2,000 (still outrageous) instead of $5,000 on a wig that is not as “high end”? Would a parent consider sending a daughter to a seminary in the States that includes a wonderful trip to Israel in their curriculum?

As long as we show that we’re willing to fork it over (due to taste preferences, peer pressure, etc.), why should the vendors hesitate to up the ante? That might be a conversation we need to have with ourselves before we can have the conversation you suggest.

Sharon Galkin, Baltimore, MD

Unforgettable Summers [Dream It, Do It / Issue 851]

The article “Dream It, Do It” by Riki Goldstein brought back incredible memories of three of the best summers I had while growing up.

Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum was an innovator in so many ways, especially as camp director of Camp Sdei Chemed. The legendary tours and Shabbosim we spent all over Eretz Yisrael were always an inspirational whirlwind.

I was fortunate to be Rabbi Teitelbaum’s waiter in 1973. He made sure to always compliment me and show his appreciation (not just with the large tip he gave me at the end of the summer). He knew just what to say and how to say it.

With Rabbi Baruch Chait as the head counselor, those summers were simply unforgettable. I was able to meet kids from all over the world who became lifelong dear friends. I remember when the Sdei Chemed Choir and the London School of Jewish Song, led by the famous Yigal Calek, performed at Binyanei Ha’umah. Rabbi Teitelbaum entrusted me with the responsibility of selling the remaining tickets for the almost sold-out concert.

Those summers left a deep impression on me — but more specifically, it was Rabbi Teitelbaum who did. There is no doubt he changed the lives of thousands upon thousands for the better.

Thank you, Mishpacha, for featuring the very one-of-a kind Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum!

Frank Storch

Director of the Chesed Fund and Project Ezra

Baltimore, MD

Auto-Delete [Shidduch Photos / Issue 851]

I have been following the back-and-forth on shidduchim pictures and I want to point out that there is a very useful tool your readers should know about.

There is a new website, picallow.com, which allows you to upload a photo for sharing purposes and set a time and date upon which that picture will auto-delete and no longer be available for viewing. This won’t solve the problem completely, but at least can give someone reassurance that in a world gone mad, their picture is safe.

Maimon Ben Moshe

Vortex of a Whirlpool [Stand Up and Be Counted / Issue 851]

Your feature about Chaim V’Chessed brought to mind a particularly memorable experience.

We were in middle of a particularly traumatic hospitalization with our medically fragile two-year-old when, overwhelmed by the tubes coming out of her body, I accidentally pulled out her feeding tube.

Her particular type of feeding tube isn’t super common, and the hospital didn’t stock it. Her precarious condition ruled out a temporary regular G tube, and I was very reluctant to settle for the standard GJ that wouldn’t necessarily hold well.

So… I called Chaim V’Chessed. At first, Rabbi Freedman was reluctant to get involved, as per CVC’s policy not to get involved with medical decisions, but once I explained to him that I was sure about what she needed, and this was a technical issue of obtaining the button, he sprang into action.

The gastroenterologist, the salesman from the med supplies company, the neighboring hospital; Rabbi Freedman was the vortex of a whirlpool of motion to get this little girl her feeding tube! He emailed me pictures; it was the wrong one. So he went himself to another hospital to see about purchasing it.

Ultimately, it was tracked down in Petach Tikvah, and then the battle was on to pay for it. A senior kupat cholim executive called me, the head of another chesed organization was in touch about getting a donor, but eventually the hospital agreed to buy it.

Then Ezer Mizion was roped in to bring it from Petach Tivkah, while a Chaim V’Chessed rep made sure the angio department saved a slot for her that day. On the third day of the saga, she finally got her feeding tube back in.

Illness, and on some level chronic illness in particular, can be very, very isolating, but that day in the hospital, after Chaim V’Chessed enlisted what seemed like half of Israel to help us, I didn’t feel alone.

Name Withheld

No Matter Who Commits It [Inbox / Issue 850]

I would like to comment on the letter titled “Disingenuous Claim,” which posited that equating men’s abuse by women to that of women by men is “disingenuous.” Her assertion reveals glaring ignorance of the subject.

The reality of men being victimized by women challenges gender stereotypes. Men from childhood are raised to be supporters, breadwinners, and protectors of their families and their homeland. This is the expectation society has of men. This is the expectation that men have of themselves. And this is also the expectation the Orthodox Jewish world has had, at least until the end of World War II.

The most recent Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that 1.3 million women and 695,000 men experienced domestic abuse in 2019. Thus, men were at the receiving end of abuse in 35% of the total of reported domestic violence.

The problem with such surveys is that they report only physical violence, where men typically are the guilty party. But domestic abuse also includes verbal, mental, and emotional abuse such as putdowns and insults — including putdowns in front of children, family, and friends. In the context of domestic abuse, women are more adept at resorting to mental and emotional abuse while at the same time acting the victim to engender public sympathy and support.

I have been at the receiving end of this abuse. There are no tools to quantify such statements. Is it equivalent to a black eye, a punch in the stomach, maybe to a stab wound? If one is subject to repeated abuse of any type over a long period of time, the effects are devastating. But police reports and crime surveys like the one cited above will not include such abuse in their statistics.

When a woman complains of domestic abuse, she is taken seriously, and that’s the way it should be. Other women will rally to her cause. Men are at a severe disadvantage in this respect. Besides the social stigma of not living up to societal expectations, such a man is not believed and is often treated with contempt.

After years of abuse, I approached a rav for help. First, he was skeptical of my story. After my children and their therapist corroborated my account, he concluded with a distinct tinge of condescension: “Your wife abused you.” (Translation: You are not a man!)

In conclusion:

  1. Domestic abuse is evil, whoever commits it.
  2. Men have no monopoly on evil.
  3. The frum velt upholds biases and attitudes that effectively question whether men can be or have been abused by their wives.

Abuse against another human being is evil, whoever commits it.

Name Withheld

Your Feelings Are Legitimate [Perspective / Issue 849]

I want to thank Mishpacha for having the guts to talk about issues that some would rather ignore. You have no idea how many broken souls you have comforted with the article about male victims of spousal abuse.

Yes, I am what you could call an abused husband. And the exact percentage of each gender being abused is not important. Each abused person, no matter the gender, is one too many. Let’s not talk about the numbers when what matters is that we acknowledge that it exists.

We men are way underrepresented, as it takes years until we realize that what we are going through is what is called abuse, and then we are lost on what to do, and so we suffer in silence. I suffered for many years until I even realized that what I am going through is not the norm. We are being taught that women are emotional and we should expect it, so we attribute all the abuse to this.

At some point I was so distraught that I called Shalom Task Force. When someone picked up, I burst out crying, and it took me over 30 minutes to be able to talk and explain why I was calling. I have to thank the anonymous person on the other end of the line who kept me on the phone and constantly kept on telling me that it was okay to cry and that they would stay on the phone with me for as long as was needed.

To all abused people — especially the men out there — I want to tell you that you are not alone. There are unfortunately many, many like you who suffer in silence. What you feel is completely normal. Don’t challenge your feelings, they are real and legitimate. You will feel much better to deal with your challenges when you acknowledge them.

A husband who’s been there

Collateral Solutions [Borrowed Trouble / Double Take — Issue 849]

Hashem created our Torah with mitzvos and solutions. It is a mitzvah d’Oraisa to lend money. There is no mitzvah to lose your money, and therefore there are halachos of mashkon, collateral.

In your Double Take story, it is unfair and wrong for Yael to feel insecure because of her husband Bentzy’s loans. Requiring collateral at the time of the loan would solve the situation for all parties, and incentivize prompt repayment, even if the collateral is somewhat less than the loan amount.

Finally, if you don’t take collateral, expect that the “loan” is really a gift and act accordingly. Then you won’t hold it against your brother (or anyone else) who can’t pay you back.

Eli Blum, Lawrence NY

P.S. I’ll also add that Gavriel and Miri are not even considering spending significantly less on the upcoming bar mitzvah, which ties into Ms. Fleksher’s recent article regarding Orthonomics.

No Shame in the Truth [Alone No More / LifeLines — Issue 847]

I want to thank you for publishing in Lifelines the story about the girl who struggles with addiction. My sister is a drug addict and it’s very hard for me, especially in the frum community where everyone keeps this problem hush-hush.

My community has been hugely helpful in establishing a support group for frum high school kids who have siblings who are drug or alcohol addicts. It’s sad, but unfortunately a lot of people are dealing with this, and it’s a pity that it’s kept so quiet.

One point in the story that really helped me was that there is no reason to keep it quiet. If someone asks me where my sister is, I can simply say that she is in rehab. There is no shame in that.

Thank you for raising awareness and helping me know that (unfortunately) I am not alone in this. May all of the Yidden in Klal Yisrael who are struggling with this have a complete refuah sheleimah.

A sibling in pain

Note: The family of Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum thanks those readers who wrote in to share their memories. Additional memories can be sent to Dovid Teitelbaum at sdeichemed@gmail.com, WhatsApp or messaged to 917-517-8847.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 853)

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