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Inbox: Issue 865

"Why are we forcing these girls to date? Why are we rushing a process that is the biggest and most important decision of a person’s life?"




Reason to Hope [Comeback Kid / Issue 864]

Your cover story on Naftali Bennet was an example of true journalism, a story told with color and detail. Unlike so many of the political pieces we read, there was no bias and you weren’t forcing us to think one way or another, but rather, respecting our ability to draw conclusions.

One detail that meant a lot to me was that, as a child, Bennet was influenced by Chabad, which led his family to shemiras hamitzvos. From places of blessing, curses do not come. If Hashem opened his heart as a child to emunah, He can continue to do so and show us that, wary as we may be, we have every reason to hope.

Hershel P.,

Crown Heights

Missing Pieces [Blacklisted / Double Take — Issue 864]

Reading the Double Take story about the camp director who rejected the sister of an at-risk former camper, my heart went out to all the people in this story who are suffering: Kaila and her mother, the camp director, and especially Chani, the younger sister, and the innocent girls in camp whose exposure to foreign influences can never be completely undone.

It seems the experience could have turned out somewhat better had the camp director been more open to communicating with the parents. If a camp needs to send a camper home in the middle of a trip, how could the director just instruct her secretary to call the parents and tell them they were sending her home? Granted it would be an uncomfortable call to make, but that is part of her responsibility.

The director says “she made the mistake of answering the mother’s 15th call” while the mother describes the situation as, “Why was I getting messages from the camp office about picking Kaila up the next day, while Mrs. Schapira wasn’t bothering to return my increasingly frantic calls?”

If the director and the mother had worked together when it came to Kaila, they may have developed enough trust to be able to work out something for the younger sister.

There is another disconcerting thing about the actions of the camp director. She does not mention anywhere that she consulted daas Torah — not when she decided to make a girl suffer the humiliation of leaving in the middle of a trip and not when she backtracked and decided to yield to pressure from the Friedman family’s rav which showed “Kaila’s group” that breaking the rules doesn’t really mean you have to suffer the consequences.

A camp director is a mechanech and needs a relationship with a rav to determine these dinei nefashos.

Avrohom H.,

Lakewood, NJ

Completely Unfair [Blacklisted / Double Take — Issue 864]

I am writing with regards to your Double Take about the girl who didn’t get accepted to camp. It is completely unfair to not accept a child into your camp because of her sibling. Let me explain.

I have three non-frum siblings. This situation comes with many challenges of its own. Some of them are:

  1. It’s embarrassing.
  2. People judge you.
  3. It’s painful to see people you love doing the wrong thing.

The list can go on and on. But not accepting someone to camp because of that? Shouldn’t the director at least look into her? Not only can this experience turn a girl off from Yiddishkeit, but I’m certain daas Torah would at least recommend making some phone calls about her. But in the story, they didn’t look into her at all and they simply said no because of her sister.

I sure hope Hashem and my community don’t judge me based on my siblings’ actions. Hashem judges me for the choices I make and for being a strong frum girl who tries her best to serve Hashem the right way.

Name Withheld

Not the Only Time [Blacklisted / Double Take — Issue 864]

The Double Take story “Blacklisted” sparked a lively discussion among my teens and their friends over Shabbos. As a veteran member of the camping scene — with many years as a camper, single staff member, and married staff member at the same Bais Yaakov camp — I, too, have some thoughts about this story. But the people I want to share this with aren’t the girls in my living room. It’s you, their parents.

When people ask me whether there are girls in my camp with questionable possessions, habits, or opinions, my response is always the same. Yes, of course there are: The key is whether we are aware of it or not.

Because the reality is that any camp, even one with the highest standards, is a melting pot of girls from all over the place, and not just geographically. Teenage girls are by definition exploring, even those from the best homes whose five older sisters toed the party line. While the vast majority of girls’ behavior fit into the normative range of what’s acceptable at home or school, there are always extremes at both ends of the spectrum that tend to manifest in the camp environment.

Some test the boundaries of questionable behavior, others veer toward extreme frumkeit that perhaps isn’t so encouraged at home. All of these come with their own risks and challenges. But I firmly believe that when handled properly by the right people with the right focus, camp provides a rare opportunity to facilitate a powerful learning experience for everyone involved that can have lifelong impact.

Honestly, as a senior staff member at camp, I’m calmer when we’re aware of the girls with the issues, because then we know who and what we’re dealing with and can handle each situation accordingly. When we’re not aware of it, we never doubt it exists, we’re just less equipped to turn it into a teachable/learnable experience.

Every camp has its own approach, and I’m not here to tell anyone how to run their operation. But my guess is that if this was the only time Mrs. Schapira’s camp had to deal with something like this, there are likely some other episodes that took place under their watch without their knowledge.

To the parents who hesitated to sign up to that camp the next year, or who are reading this with rising alarm, please relax: If your daughter is a healthy teenager from a stable home and good school, it’s highly unlikely that an encounter with less-acceptable music in camp will impact her negatively for life. And if you aren’t sure if she (and your home) fits this description, then please don’t expect camp to solve issues that you, as a parent, have to take responsibility for in any case.

A longtime “married staff” member

A Wonderful Friend Too [EndNote / Issue 864]

Kudos to Riki Goldstein on her great article about Reb Osni Rozen. I have known him since those nostalgic days in camp that he spoke of, as well as when he learned in the Mir in Eretz Yisrael. Besides being a singer and entertainer, he is a wonderful friend too!

When I was in the hospital, he came with his guitar to give me chizuk, and when I needed someone to stay the night, he did so with aplomb. He’s personable, sensitive, helpful, and inspirational.


But You’re My Sister [Don’t Call Him Rebbe / Issue 864]

I was excited to see your profile of Rav Mordechai Auerbach. I’ve been privileged to spend Shabbos in his house a couple of times, which felt like stepping into another era. Both Rav Auerbach and his wife, Rebbetzin Gita, live a life focused solely on serving Hashem and helping His children; there’s nothing self-serving or superficial about either of them. Their lifestyle seems a bit out of place in the heart of Tel Aviv, yet after spending time with them, I believe I discovered the secret that’s made them so successful.

I once overheard Rav Mordechai rebuking a chiloni neighbor for her immodest manner of dress. “Achoti, my sister,” he opened the conversation, then chastised her.

“Go back to Bnei Brak,” she snapped in return.

“But you’re my sister,” Rav Mordechai told her wonderingly. “And if my sister were to mistakenly dress like this, I would want her to know.”

The woman went back home and changed her clothing.

You won’t find this method written up in any kiruv handbook. And I don’t know if there’s anyone else in the world who would or should even dream of talking tzniyus with an irreligious woman. But because Rav Mordechai so loves every Yid, because he really, genuinely cared for the woman as if she were his sister, his message made its way into her heart.

And that, I believe, is the reason that the Auerbachs have effected a quiet revolution in Tel Aviv.

Penina Kaufman

Ready or Not [The Kichels / Issue 864]

Like most of frum America I’m sure, I turn straight to the Kichels as soon as my magazine arrives. It’s always entertaining, but I especially enjoy when you use the Kichels to gently highlight a topic that we really need to talk about. Last week’s installment, featuring immature Aviva, struck a particular chord.

I, too, have an “Aviva” in my life. She’s a sweet, adorable, fun girl with good middos who goes out on many dates, but in real life is not much different from her high school self: a girl who needs her parents to weigh in on every aspect of her life, lacks independence, and isn’t even sure herself if she’s ready to be married.

Why are we forcing these girls to date? Why are we rushing a process that is the biggest and most important decision of a person’s life?

It’s time to do the work we’ve done for the last decade regarding mental wellness: Remove the stigma. No good will come out of pressuring girls (and boys) into marrying before they’re ready, and by releasing them from that pressure we can also alleviate the compounded pressure that our older singles feel.

It will take a while until we get there. Meanwhile, keep putting out Kichels that highlight our inconsistencies in a way that we can laugh at and learn from.

Miriam K.

Does No One Care? [Inbox / Issue 863]

I am writing in reference to the letter from the woman who sat shivah alone and received barely any phone calls from the people who had been her neighbors and “friends” for so many years.

I am very sorry for this woman’s loss and hope that she finds nechamah. Although I know that one cannot compare death to illness, this letter really resonated with me.

I have recently had a major operation, and like the woman writes in her letter, I was very hurt by the lack of messages or calls — both pre- and post-surgery — from people who call themselves my friends. It made me think, am I not important enough to them that they can’t remember a major event like this in my life?

I know that most people do not mean to hurt anyone intentionally, and I know people are wrapped up in their day-to-day lives. But sending someone a message to show that you are thinking of them means the world. Nowadays, you don’t even need to pick up the phone to speak! You can text or send a voice note.

As a side note, I have noticed that when someone is chas v’shalom ill with cancer, then people will run around them more. And unlike the letter writer, I don’t think this behavior is due to COVID. It has always been like this with some people. But when you’re on the receiving end, it makes you reevaluate your friendships and how much to invest in them.

Thank you for being the forum in which we can share our pain and feelings.

S. P., UK


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 865)

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