"I don’t look down at people for owning smartphones, but I know that I speak for thousands of Mishpacha readers who are not 'screen focused'"
Three Steps to Shalom [Summer Split / Double Take – Issue 870]
Over the years, there have been numerous Double Take stories that are difficult to mediate and resolve. “Summer Split” is not one of those.
What a blessed situation, where the parents can host their children and grandchildren for four weeks upstate in combined lodgings of one larger bungalow and one smaller, newer one. This family deserves a gold medal for shalom and achdus, living together for a month-long vacation.
The oldest couple, Chezky and Faigy, have always occupied the newer bungalow, since their family size is largest, Faigy works online (needing Wi-Fi and quiet surroundings), plus this has been the arrangement for the last couple of years. A few weeks before summer vacation begins, Mom suggests that the other couples deserve an opportunity to utilize the nicer bungalow. The other two married sisters are envisioning this new summer plan, ready to put it into action. As can be predicted, this is no-go for Chezky and Faigy.
A significant change of living quarters cannot be implemented without necessary warning and definitely not close to the onset of the summer season. Instead Mom must act on the Three R’s: repair, replace, and rejuvenate. Windows and bathroom tiles need to be repaired, upgrade the electricity and replace faulty ACs with split-level units, and replace mattresses, linens, towels, and buy a few Wi-Fi routers. Rejuvenate the lumpy old couch with a newer model, buy doorknobs, and provide locks for room privacy as starters. Grandma’s stuff has lost its aura and the new generation, plus welcomed in-law children, are not nostalgic over the Big House of Old.
A newer looking and comfortable “Big House” will be enjoyed by all and a possibility of change might occur the next year — or perhaps won’t be needed! Fairness and equality are family axioms (nice to try) while honor and respect are essential for healthy family life.
Mrs. Caren May
Joint Solution [Summer Split / Double Take – Issue 870]
Thank you for your Double Take about the extended family and the bungalow dilemma.
May I make a suggestion? If everyone who has been enjoying free summer vacations all these years chipped in a little money, maybe they could make the larger bungalow a little more user-friendly. What nachas that would be for Mom and Dad!
Musical Memory Lane [EndNote / Issue 870]
It was a few days before Succos in Johannesburg, South Africa, more than 30 years ago. I remember that day like yesterday.
My childhood friend Shragi Saltzman (now of London) came over. The weather in Johannesburg was miserable, so instead of decorating the succah, we all sat around our Blaupunkt record player listening to the London School of Jewish Song. Our eyes fixed upon the worn-out jacket cover showing the Union Jack and a whole lot of English boys with flutes and other instruments in their hands. I do not recall the name of the album, but we just listened over and over to the harmonies of those soul-touching songs like “Boruchu,” “Oho Mah Tovu,” “We’d Like to Live in the Holy Land,” and the classic “Hamalach Hagoel.”
Fast-forward a few years later, and my parents bought us the newly released album of the London School of Jewish Song for Chanukah, just before our vacation. That cassette — An’im Zmiros — played over and over in our family car for most of the (12-hour) journey from Jo’burg down to the Eastern Cape.
My siblings and I can never forget some of those timeless pieces like “De Zeidies” and “Ko mar… alu hahar vehaveisem eitz…” to name but a few.
When I became a chassan, I bought my kallah, now my wife, a copy of that An’im Zemiros album. We loved it. Oh, those harmonies and rich music...
Fast forward to 2021. What do you think were the first albums I searched for on our music app to play to my children? Naturally, the London School of Jewish Song. My boys love the songs “Oho Mah Tovu,” “We’d Like to Live in the Holy Land,” “Oideh,” and “Mama” and we sing them often.
Thank you, Yigal Calek and the London School of Jewish Song, for generations of musical memories.
Eli Karp, Johannesburg
Acknowledge the Screen-Free [Screenshot / Issue 869]
How does a print magazine engage readers who spend most of their week looking at their screens?... Shabbos is that built-in break from the screen. It’s also a break from the constant buzzing, the refracted focus, the swirling stream of look-here-see-this-comment-on-that-update-them-forward-that.
The above quote is from the most recent Screenshot column by the editor of this magazine. Even before reading this piece, I have felt that lately Mishpacha conveys an impression that its entire readership is “screen focused.”
Of course, that is not the case.
Yisroel Besser’s most recent Voice in the Crowd described his encounter with two chassidishe boys at the Vizhnitz shul in Monsey who asked him to kindly put away his smartphone. Vizhnitzer boys are not the only ones who have this chinuch. In Boro Park, a ten-year-old boy was hit by a car; baruch Hashem, he was only lightly injured. When the Hatzolah medic tried to hand him his smartphone so that he could call his parents and tell them what happened, the boy replied that he cannot touch a smartphone.
It would not surprise me if that boy’s parents are subscribers to Mishpacha.
I don’t look down at people for owning smartphones (and I’m fully aware that many must have it for business purposes), but I know that I speak for thousands of Mishpacha readers who are not “screen focused.” We are grateful that we can live with the menuchas hanefesh of not having to turn our eyes to the screen every time we hear a ping or buzz — and yes, for being able to avoid filling our minds with so much unimportant information. It is a cheirus that I wish for all my fellow Jews.
I have written this letter in the hope that Mishpacha will publish it so that our existence can be acknowledged.
Name Withheld Upon Request
Love with Boundaries [Still Our Children / Issue 869]
In last week’s article “Still Our Children,” Reb Gedalia Miller speaks to parents of struggling children. I too experienced the pain of a struggling child and received guidance on accepting and loving unconditionally. And while this is absolutely a must for every parent in every situation, I feel there are some points that need to be addressed.
When parents are facing a situation where their entire lives’ efforts and dreams to raise emotionally healthy, Torah-observant children are at stake, the greatest challenge is to remain in control of their emotions and reactions, which are directly related to any chances of success they may have in creating and maintaining a meaningful relationship with their struggling child.
There are successful strategies and techniques directly addressing this great challenge that do not involve compromising one’s values. Completely letting go of boundaries and values can certainly affect the rest of the children in the family, as it did for mine. When I saw my other children starting to struggle, I knew my parenting strategies needed a change.
A parent can love a child unconditionally — yet still have the ability to say, “I understand that you’d like me to buy that for you, but I love you too much to buy you something I know will hurt you. These are my values, and what I believe in, but know that my love for you is not dependent on the choices that you make.”
There are many instances where a parent needs to let go of any confrontation with their child. In this case, and in all others as well, having the right mentors is crucial. Any situation that can lead to confrontation can and should be dealt with through a third party. This will allow for discussions that cannot have happened otherwise.
When it comes to “throwing out children,” there are circumstances where highly qualified therapist teams would actually recommend that the best option for all is a change in the living arrangements of the child. If done in a loving, supportive manner, no sibling will be traumatized, and there have been numerous successful transitions with positive outcomes.
It seems to me, after having spoken to a number of mechanchim and professionals in our community, that the derech suggested in the article may be an option only for some very specific cases. Certainly, situations of pikuach nefesh are not the time for any parenting techniques, and unconditional love without any boundaries may well be the only proper approach in these cases. But in other cases, it may in fact be damaging to other siblings in the family and is rejected by several highly respected therapists and Torah authorities.
I’d like to ask any parent who has read this article to hit the pause button before making any decisions regarding the approach to take with their struggling children. Please consult your daas Torah and qualified professionals when making these life-altering decisions.
There was one particularly important point that was left out of the article and that is the power of tefillah. Parents in this situation may be mourning the loss of their dreams forever and accepting what Hashem has given them — yet never giving up hope that their child can one day return to the path of Torah and mitzvos.
May HaKadosh Baruch Hu answer all our tefillos and tears speedily with the ultimate healing for all in Yerushalayim b’karov!
Not My Legend [Lock and Key / Issue 869]
Your article on the capture of the Old City in the ‘67 war referred to the commander of the operation as “the legendary Motta Gur.” The “mass murderer Motta Gur” or the “infamous Motta Gur” would be a more appropriate appellation.
There was no strategic reason for Gur to send 100 Jewish boys to their death fighting in the suicide mission of Ammunition Hill. But, as you also pointed out, there was competition as to who would get the credit. So, not wanting to wait for the tank units to arrive from the southern front and destroy the tunnels and trenches where the Jordanian Army lie in wait and possibly losing out on the honor, Motta Gur gave the command to immediately attack in hand-to-hand combat for which those brave young men had no preparation and no protection. The result was an immense and unforgivable tragedy.
Already at Work [Lonely at the Top / Issue 868]
Thank you for your articles on Leadership in issue 868. They provided so much insight and food for thought.
I want to highlight an organization working hard to develop leadership in the educational world. The Consortium of Jewish Days Schools, under the direction of Rabbi Heshy Glass, ran a phenomenal program on July 12–13 called the Principal Think Tank. Administrators from schools all over the country came together to focus on the topic of leadership, how to grow as a leader, and how to foster the future leaders of our community.
Rabbi Glass, Dr. Eli Shapiro, and an amazing panel of speakers did a phenomenal job to create and foster paths for growth. This type of development will go a long way toward improving the world of chinuch and the future of Klal Yisrael and I felt they deserved a public yasher koyach!
The Long View [Lonely at the Top / Issue 868]
Alexandra Fleksher’s article “Where Have all the Teachers Gone” should awaken in all of us — and in particular, the leaders of every Jewish community — the awareness that we are facing a crisis: the diminishing numbers of young men and women going into chinuch.
As a principal of a day school, I am facing this coming academic year with great concerns, not just for my school, but for the future of Torah learning in schools across the country. Principals and administrators are scrambling to find suitable teachers to teach our children, and the pool is limited. Schools are growing with record enrollment numbers — but who will be there to inspire and excite our students to learn Torah and grow in mitzvos?
While growing up I was inculcated with a sense of idealism. In Telshe Yeshiva, where my family lived, the rebbeim and morahs were highly respected, and many of us and our parents dreamed that we would one day serve the community as they did. I remember vividly sitting with my father, Rabbi Avraham Elbaz ztz”l, voicing my wish to become a nurse. My father emphatically stressed that I must become a teacher — a noble and lofty position in his eyes — as he reiterated that Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself is a “melamed” and that there would be no greater sipuk hanefesh than teaching children Torah.
I am often reminded of my father’s words to me. Even years later, when my obligations to my growing family grew, I again approached him to ask his advice about whether I should leave chinuch and go into real estate. His words to me were, “If you leave chinuch, you will not succeed in life.” Oftentimes, I have revisited the scene and have reminded myself of the tremendous sipuk hanefesh that chinuch has brought me.
Was that a different time? Were we ideologically inspired and influenced to pursue chinuch as a calling? I worry that this is not the case today, that young adults are not being encouraged in yeshivos or in seminaries to pursue chinuch as a calling. Young adults are being encouraged to pursue other lucrative businesses or professions and to skip chinuch. Where is the mesirus nefesh, dedication, commitment, and achrayus to serve Klal Yisrael?
I am not suggesting that one must struggle financially and ignore one’s obligations to their family, but that at very least the concepts of serving others and preparing ourselves for Olam Haba need to be part of the conversation when one decides their occupation in Olam Hazeh.
Boca Raton, FL
Game-Changing Resource [Lonely at the Top / Issue 868]
This past week’s Mishpacha featured several articles that discussed an important question: “Where have all our teachers gone?” The question certainly gives one what to think about.
The responsibilities and expectations for a rebbi or morah today are far greater than ever before. Our administrators, mechanchim, and mechanchos are on overload.
What can we do to lighten the load — empowering and giving them much needed time to properly focus on their schools, students, prepare adequately for each shiur/lesson, connect with parents, and network with other teachers — so that they will want and stay within the chinuch world?
May I suggest an idea that has not yet been addressed? It can be a game-changer.
Teachers who teach secular subjects have access to fully sequenced and resourced curriculum. Rarely do they have to create or plan their own material. Carefully curated and detailed lesson plans and assessments are readily available among an abundance of resources and support. Why should our mechanchim have anything less?
Our mechanchim, mechanchos, and administrators need well-developed, easy, and ready-to-use standardized curricula with tangible resources. This will limit the stress and overwhelming feelings teachers endure by saving them precious time and enabling them to focus more effectively on their students and their goals.
Administrators and teachers will have a road map with resources and goals that stimulate creativity, accountability, and assessment tools, improving student outcomes. Development of limudei kodesh curricula should include a scope and sequence, workbooks, and teacher editions, along with teacher training and ongoing support. This will free our teachers from the burden of creating and/or searching for appropriate materials while significantly diminishing time spent on lesson planning.
In order for anyone to want to enter and remain in a specific field, one must have the right tools and resources. Without them, one will eventually get burnt out or leave the field. Developing engaging, easy to use, and standardized curricula is key to giving effective tools to our mechanchim and mechanchos so their loads will be significantly lighter. In this way they will anticipate entering and remaining in chinuch — because they can concentrate their efforts into reaching our children and transmitting our mesorah in a more effective and everlasting way.
Mrs. Tamar Nusbaum
At the Bottom, Too [Lonely at the Top / Issue 868]
Kudos to Rabbi Yechiel Spero for his “continuing the conversation” vis-a-vis the vacuum in education that exists in today’s chinuch world. I would like to add a few points.
I would disagree with Rabbi Spero’s statement that “not every menahel needs to have been a rebbi.” I believe that every menahel in fact must have been a rebbi at some point in his career in order to fully understand what a rebbi’s job entails and to empathize with him. Not every rebbi is capable of being an administrator or menahel, but every menahel must have experienced what being a rebbi necessitates and be willing and able to stand in the shoes of his rebbeim.
In addition, as someone who has personally witnessed the devastation on my yeshivah by the revolving door of menahalim chosen by a search committee, I feel strongly that these committees should be comprised mainly of mechanchim. Businessmen, especially those who don’t currently or have never sent their child to the school and have zero chinuch expertise, have no place in hiring someone to run said school.
These poor choices of “shidduchim” have caused my particular yeshivah to be left with a mess that those of us left still standing are struggling to clean up. This is not a mere unfortunate “oops” moment; the repeated mistakes in hiring the wrong person to be captain of our ship has led to bad morale among the staff and talmidim, low enrollment, and major budget issues. The domino effect has been untenable.
I hope that somebody at the top is taking note of this discussion and will rethink their thought processes in filling the position of a menahel.
Lonely at the bottom, too
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 871)
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