"He was asked twice about the recovery of 'bodies, both times to which he replied, 'We recovered people. Unfortunately, they were not alive.' "
People, Not Bodies [Digging Through the Heartbreak / Issue 868]
Shortly after the arrival of the Israeli rescue team in Surfside, I saw a clip of Colonel Vach being questioned by an interviewer. He was asked twice (as I recall) about the recovery of “bodies,” both times to which he replied, “We recovered people. Unfortunately, they were not alive.”
I was struck at his sensitivity to the dignity of the niftarim — people, not bodies.
Consequently, I was not surprised when I read your article this week and learned that he is a shomer Torah u’mitzvos. Kol hakavod to those selfless rescuers, and may this be the last time they are called upon to perform their avodas hakodesh.
Mrs. Yehudis Levi
Only One Requirement [Lonely at the Top / Issue 868]
It was with some dismay that I read Rabbi Neuberger’s otherwise excellent article, due to the inclusion of his example of Rav Meir Stern serving as color war general as contributing to his leadership skills.
The “leadership qualities” of a rosh yeshivah who has said a blatt shiur for over 40 years to thousands of talmidim is his gadlus in Torah. To attribute it to anything else other than his gadlus in Torah is both demeaning and incorrect. The fact that the Rosh Yeshivah was a color war general is not demeaning, but to attribute his leadership qualities to those brief experiences is.
The yeshivah world is full of successful roshei yeshivah who are not charismatic, do not have “leadership qualities,” and are roshei yeshivah only due to their gadlus in Torah.
I think the confusion may have arisen from two factors: first, conflating roshei yeshivah with other communal leaders. Certainly for an askan or a leader of a community institution, Rabbi Neuberger is correct that we should be fostering leadership qualities. However, a rosh yeshivah must possess one thing — gadlus in Torah.
Second, over the last 25 years the term “rosh yeshivah” has broadened to include wonderful talmidei chachamim who are really administrators. They may say a Chumash shiur or a shmuess, but their primary function is to lead an institution.
In addition, with the (blessed!) proliferation of yeshivos catering to bochurim who cannot thrive in typical yeshivos, the term “rosh yeshivah” was correctly appended to people who are saving neshamos in Klal Yisrael. This broadening of the term “rosh yeshivah” has brought some obfuscation and forgetfulness of what a rosh yeshivah — whose only mission is mesirus haTorah — is, and should be.
Interestingly, when I learned in Passaic over 30 years ago, a local baal habayis was trying to get a Pirchei started. He approached the Rosh Yeshivah and asked if the bochurim could serve as Pirchei leaders.
The Rosh Yeshivah responded, “A yeshivah bochur’s only job is to learn and on Shabbos afternoon to take a nap.”
Apparently, the Rosh Yeshivah himself did not view it as critical to the development of his bochurim.
Yaakov Mordechai Zaks
Mesivta of Clifton
With Gown, Gloves, and Roses [EndNote / Issue 868]
I’m writing in response to the item “An Audience of One” in your EndNote column. I was the “breathless young askan” who asked Mordechai Ben David to come sing in the hospital for a very courageous young girl who was too ill to attend the HASC concert in person. I’d like to add a few details to the story.
When I asked him to come, Mordechai Ben David didn’t hesitate; he said, “I’ll meet you in Sloan Kettering in half an hour.”
When I mentioned to someone that he was on his way, he said, “Are you sure? Mordechai Ben David is going to a big post-concert party now.”
After 30 minutes passed, I got a little nervous that maybe he was too busy and would not be able to make it.
Suddenly, Mordechai Ben David jumped out of a car in front of the hospital doors holding a dozen roses for the patient.
“I couldn’t come visit a little girl without bringing something,” he said with a smile, and proceeded to give the most beautiful concert in gown and gloves.
Baruch Hashem, the patient recovered and actually was instrumental in introducing me to my wife.
With appreciation to Mordechai Ben David and a special shadchan,
There for Her People [Watching, Waiting, Praying / Issue 867]
Thank you for your article on the condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida. I live on Collins Avenue, a few blocks from the horrific event.
There are many Jewish and non-Jewish individuals who have sacrificed so much of their time and money to assist those waiting to hear if their loved ones are alive. However, Rebbetzin Chani Lipskar from The Shul in Bal Harbour in Surfside has barely slept, walked in severe rain, prayed with the waiting families, assisted with clothing, food, and has been there for people who remain in utter shock. At the same time, Rebbetzin Chani Lipskar is here for our Jewish community at The Shul, never thinking of herself.
May Hashem shower her with brachah for good health and long life to share with her devoted husband, Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar.
Leah Bracha Lans
The Upside of Silly Nations [Outlook / Issue 867]
It is always a pleasure to read Rabbi Yonoson Rosenblum’s essays; this past week was no exception. While I do agree that meritocracy should be preserved, there is, however, another aspect to his analysis of “smart and silly” nations.
Both China and Russia have far superior schooling and more hardworking students than the US. Why is it, then, that China and Russia must resort to stealing US intellectual property and creative and production design? Shouldn’t the reverse be true?
The premise is that intense schooling translates into success in all areas, including innovation. That is not true. Yes, thanks to the high level of learning in China and Russia, they produce top-notch technocrats in science and engineering, but they are not masters of creativity and invention.
Why? Because dictatorships do not allow for “silly” behavior, like dropping out of school, taking large risks, losing money, trying again and again — against all advice. In short, there is little tolerance for failure, especially for repeated failure. And the willingness to take risks and fail is key to stellar accomplishments.
I wonder how Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates would have fared growing up in China.
There is a lesson to be learned regarding students who do not measure up during their school years. Don’t be surprised when they become super successful and pillars of their communities. After all, they did not peak too early, were not bogged down with premature praise, and did not have to worry about preserving an already superb reputation. Guts and energy and, of course, Heavenly intervention did the rest.
This Is No Office Job [Job Search / Issue 867]
Thank you for your discussion about kiruv as a viable parnassah. As a former student who was close to the kiruv couple on my college campus, I felt the need to include my two cents.
When you think of your children’s rebbeim or morahs or the people you could encounter if chas v’shalom there’s a medical emergency (think Chai Lifeline, oncologists, or the sort of doctors we should only know as friends rather than as medical advisors), who do you want in those situations?
Do you want someone who genuinely cares about his work, who is in those positions because HaKadosh Baruch Hu has placed him there? Someone who has genuine compassion for those they come into contact with and for making a positive impact on our world? Or would you be okay with someone in those positions who feels pareve toward his job, viewing it only as a paycheck?
Why is the discussion around kiruv centering around the parnassah aspect, when there are so many other crucial elements of the work? Those in kiruv are doing a kiddush Hashem — bringing other Yidden closer to Hashem, closer to their Yiddishkeit. I know kiruv couples who have had to help students through mental health crises, emotional breakdowns, familial issues, and things that, chas v’shalom, I hope never to experience.
Please don’t get me wrong. Without a doubt, professionals in whatever field should be earning a fair parnassah, nor should any person go without. However, kiruv is not equivalent to a 9-5 office job.
I saw firsthand just how involved people in kiruv get — I don’t know if I could be called a kiruv “success story,” but the couple on my campus gave me the space to explore my Yiddishkeit and helped me on my path to becoming shomer mitzvos. If they had just been there to earn a living, they wouldn’t have been successful in their job.
Being close to kiruv professionals in many organizations has been a brachah, and I’ve met individuals who care about what they do with every fiber of their being. It’s time that Klal Yisrael recognizes kiruv as the work that it is.
A Former Bas Bayis
in a Kiruv Home
More Than Musical Talent [StanDING! Ovation / Issue 867]
I greatly appreciated the article about Rabbi Seymour Rockoff a”h (better known as Cantor Rockoff) by Dovid Nachman Golding for his recent yahrtzeit. I feel it really captured his essence. I was happy that the article mentioned his great love of Torah and ahavas Yisrael in addition to his musical talents.
I got to know Cantor Rockoff after I returned to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after my first year of learning in Eretz Yisrael, when I participated in a small learning group that he led. I came to appreciate his enthusiasm for learning, his in-depth learning, and how much he loved learning Torah. He would often offer to learn with others — and he did all of this as a contribution to the community; he did not charge for any of these things.
Cantor Rockoff was a role model, describing these actions as “something he does” and “something every Jew should do.” He conducted himself with anivus (modesty and humility) and did not emphasize that these behaviors and talents meant that something was unique and special about him — though it clearly was. He cared deeply about the Harrisburg community.
This was all in addition to being a great chazzan, with a beautiful voice and the capacity to lead. When the community rabbi and posek Rabbi Chaim Schertz a”h needed to go out of town for a period of time, Cantor Rockoff would assume a leadership role and answer sh’eilos as needed. Despite his own erudition, he showed tremendous deference and kavod towards Rabbi Schertz, and there was a visible respect between the two of them.
With his great sense of humor, Cantor Rockoff always found ways to make people smile. I feel grateful and privileged to know him, and my family and I gained a lot from him personally and from his approach toward life. He is greatly missed.
Active Listening [The Art of Listening / Issue 866]
As I read Rav Leuchter’s latest article, I was reminded of the first lesson I received in the art of creating relationships from Mr. Dennis Eisenberg, longtime executive vice president of the Yeshivah of Flatbush.
He said, even though the words “listen” and “silent” are made up of the same letters, it is important to remember that they are very much not the same act and produce very different results.
To listen is to be actively engaged, to make it about the other person and to be interested in and attentive to what is being said. To be silent is to be passive, to retreat into oneself and to show no interest in what is being said. To listen is to show caring — to be silent is to be apathetic. It is a lesson I have put to use often both in professional life and in my personal life.
The point of that lesson was about learning how to administer a nonprofit organization (a.k.a. a mossad) to understand how to connect with people, to better understand their goals, and to create a relationship wherein the other person has a desire to “be in” on the success of said organization.
As Rav Leuchter shows, it is also a lesson to keep in mind as we engage with those around us, especially our children. To build the relationship and create that connection which will stir the desire to “be in” on the success of the future of Klal Yisrael.
Correction: An ad that appeared in the magazine asking for information about a health issue contained the wrong email address. Here is the proper text: We would be grateful for anyone with experience regarding surgery for SPONDYLOLISTHESIS grade 3 in a young woman to contact us by emailing email@example.com. Thank you.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 869)
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