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Inbox: Issue 854

"It’s been a bit over a year on a roller coaster, and one of the few constants has been your magazine: the familiar voices, the solid message of emunah and ahavas Yisrael, and the entertaining articles"


Alive and Well [Text Messages / Issue 853]

I read Eytan Kobre’s defense of “frumspeak” with glee. Aside from the fact that I always appreciate when Mr. Kobre uses his very significant talent to defend and celebrate our community, his words resonated with me.

I work in education and am surrounded by many secular Jews and non-Jews. One day we had a conversation about the “death of language.” My colleagues suggested that technology — children watching instead of reading, teenagers texting instead of actually forming sentences — was causing the entire young generation’s language capabilities to be eroded.

I invited them to a nearby frum bookstore. They were in awe at the many new releases, with sophisticated subjects, graphics, and substance. They asked the clerk if any young people buy books and he answered that most of the customers were in fact young, and that most parents who come in bring home books for their children. I then showed them the weekly Orthodox publications, including your impressive magazine, and they were stunned .

Yeshivish or not, language, for us, is alive and well. It’s the others who have a problem.

Chaim K., Brooklyn, NY

Singled Out [Screenshot / Issue 852]

I was really moved by Shana Friedman’s editorial that accompanied the special project on our image problem. Her acknowledgment that the negative media coverage the frum community has received this past year in Israel and internationally has been very painful was very validating.

We’re a very news- and politics-oriented family and felt quite distressed about the hyper focus on our community and its flaws, and on the condescending attitude toward us, as though we’re incapable of self-reflection and critical thinking.

The line that went through my mind many times this past year was Netanyahu’s words at the UN about Israel being singled out for condemnation more than any other nation. So, too, the frum community has been singled out for critical coverage more than any other population.

Suri Yoskovitch

Look Inside First [Solve Our Image Problem / Issue 852]

I was intrigued by your articles regarding the Orthodox community’s “image problem.” Although there certainly is a bias in many news outlets and publications against the frum community, we also must take some responsibility for the image we portray, and unfortunately, in my opinion, that was missed to a great degree in your project.

I think the current COVID pandemic highlighted that. I cannot understand why many within our ranks were so quick to dismiss the requirements for masking and other regulations and/or recommendations, which are viewed by the public at large as important. Let’s not fool ourselves that it was only a small group of disenfranchised people who like to make noise. The reality is that a very large contingent of the frum yeshivah community did not follow the guidelines.

Yes, it’s true that the lawmakers have shown some level of hypocrisy, they treated the BLM demonstrators differently, and perhaps they didn’t name any other “red zones” — but since when does that allow us to behave that way? If the BLM demonstrators were allowed to burn cars and loot, would we consider doing the same? Yes, many of the rulings were confusing and at times contradictory, but for many they were viewed as important rules to prevent the spread of the disease, and society at large took them seriously.

Many claim that since “halachah hi she’Eisav sonei l’Yaakov,” it makes no difference what we do, so why bother with following difficult and unnecessary rules and behaviors. But we find that Chazal were concerned about how we are perceived by the world at large (see Kli Yakar, Devarim 2:3).

I completely understand that yeshivos, schools, and shuls had to reopen, but in many of them, the regulations were totally disregarded. I believe some level of civil obedience could have been maintained, while still having shuls and schools function. Similarly, can we make small weddings and try to stay within at least some kind of guidelines?

Another important point is that when we disregard the rules as “shtusim,” that attitude will inevitably spill into how we behave when we are in the public eye, outside of our insulated community bubbles.

It’s important to stand up for our rights if they’ve been infringed upon, but it’s incumbent on us to first take a look inside, and see what we need to address in regards to being marbeh kevod Shamayim, and not chalilah the opposite.

A frustrated Monsey resident

Mindset, Not Destination [Solve Our Image Problem / Issue 852]

I am no big thinker or activist, just a random Lakewood mother, but reading about the perceived image problem, I thought I should share a habit my husband and I have developed. We’re raising several young children in a climate filled with people just like them, where the service providers, store owners, and even the school bus driver are frum. I realized that if they are going to have a clue about how to behave around others beyond our immediate community, it’s up to me.

Now, we go on field trips once every two weeks. Be it Fort Dix, Manalapan, Neptune, Target runs, or random shopping — the real point is to make sure they learn how a Jew comports and conducts himself in public, how to speak politely and courteously to cashiers and salespeople, and how to develop their own pride in their identity.

Maybe a Chol Hamoed trip idea? It’s not a destination, but it is a mindset. If you live “in-town,” it’s crucial. Wherever you go, realize what you represent and carry yourself accordingly.

Adina G., Lakewood, NJ

A Real Feat [Magazine Issue 853]

Maybe this is cheesy or sappy or what my teenagers would call “cringy,” but I just want to say thank you. It’s been a bit over a year on a roller coaster, and one of the few constants has been your magazine: the familiar voices, the solid message of emunah and ahavas Yisrael, and the entertaining articles.

When this pandemic is finally over and the story is written, we will learn of heroes and activists who rose to the moment, while those who just “did their jobs” won’t get mentioned. It was expected, right? So let me be the one who does acknowledge it.

What your team pulled off since last year’s Pesach magazine under lockdown — and for a full year since — is a real feat. I can’t imagine how you kept steering calmly even when the road under you must have felt like it was imploding.

May Mishpacha continue to fulfill its shlichus, with better news and easier circumstances.

M. F., Providence, RI

Unhealthy Suspicion [Off the Couch / Issue 853]

I’ve been reading with horror the current serialized story running in Off the Couch, in which a bochur was brought to Dr. Freedman by a do-gooder who had tried to “heal” his mental illness through dubious methods of his own. By the time the boy reached Dr. Freedman, he was in a catatonic state, his life was in danger, and Dr. Freedman insisted on hospitalizing him.

This story is obviously a gross anomaly, a horrific tale in which a charlatan bilks well-meaning parents while endangering their son, but the core beliefs that make stories like this possible are all too common in our community.

We’re inclined to distrust authority, we’re dismissive of government, we sneer at the media — in short, we tend to be suspicious of anyone from outside our daled amos. This skepticism has bred an environment in which conspiracy theories flower, people lend more credence to the spouting of friends or even the loudest person on Instagram than credentialed experts, and in which we have large swaths of our community repeating lies and rumors that have been thoroughly debunked.

Mordechai Hersh


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 854)

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