"The negative reports may or may not be true, but Hashem is here in Eretz Yisrael, inviting us to return along with the nearly 7 million brethren who have already done so
Two Phone Calls [The People Come First / Issue 873]
Your warm profile of Rabbi Moshe Hauer reminds me of two phone calls I received from him. The first took place shortly after our move from Cleveland to Baltimore about five years ago. It came a few days before Yom Kippur.
Our son, Yehuda, was scheduled to be the baal tefillah. My wife, Sarah, had had some surgery and could not make the walk to hear her son davening.
The phone rang: “This is Moshe Hauer. I have arranged housing for you right near the shul” — as if he had nothing else to do.
The second call came a few years later. On a Friday afternoon the phone rings. “This is Moshe Hauer. (I quipped, ‘I guess you need help with your derashah, Rabbi…) I just wanted to say that I missed you.”
I explained that I had been having some problems with my knees, which made it hard for me to come, but I still loved him.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer is a wonderful talmid chacham, a brilliant speaker, but above all he is a mensch. He will succeed in his new job with the help of the One Who Helps Us All.
Keeper of the Shul [For the Record / Issue 873]
I always find the For the Record column fascinating and am amazed by the historical tidbits the two writers come up with!
This past week’s installment really grabbed my attention though. The article mentions Rav Moshe Feinstein’s pre-Yamim Noraim speech in a shul named Raim Ahuvim in Philadelphia in 1963.
Raim Ahuvim has a similar story to so many shuls across the US. At one point it was a flourishing shul filled with young families. However, over the years, the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood changed and slowly the shul had to close. Usually the typical sad ending to the story is that the shul eventually gets sold and there is barely a remnant of the glorious community it once was home to. However in this case, there is a happy ending.
There is a very special woman named Sarah Botwonik who lives near the shul and who was a member together with her family back during its heyday. She has become the shul’s guardian and caretaker, lovingly upkeeping it and even making improvements to it.
People thought her efforts were a waste of time. Then, five years ago, a fledgling day camp from the nearby Bala Cynwyd community found a home in Raim Ahuvim. Now every summer the shul is filled with children davening, learning, and playing — all due to Mrs. Botwonik’s belief that a shul must be always cared for.
As the camp director, it’s an honor to know now that the spot I stand in to address the camp was once occupied by the great Rav Moshe Feinstein. I will make sure our campers learn about the history of our shul, and continue to bring Toradigeh life into it.
Director of Camp Fest
Marching for Shabbos [For the Record / Issue 873]
I always enjoy the For the Record articles. They are such interesting snippets of little-known history. Having grown up in Philadelphia in the ’50s and ’60s, I am especially intrigued by pieces about my hometown.
Last week’s For The Record about Rav Moshe Feinstein’s visit to Philly mentioned my father a”h, Erwin Weinberg, and others who were instrumental in arranging the visit. My brother Dovid Weinberg and my husband Moshe Brown, who were both talmidim of the yeshiva at that time, remember Rav Moshe’s shiur vividly.
But when I read the paragraph about the Jewish marchers for shemiras Shabbos, I could not believe it — my father, at the age of 18, was one of those marchers! He and his family had arrived from Europe (Germany, through England to Philadelphia) only a few months before. Near their home were these Jewish stores open on Shabbos and my father joined the protests with his parents’ encouragement.
Yet there’s more to the story. My father and his family were considered “enemy aliens” because they came from Germany. So it didn’t take long for my father to receive a visit from the FBI. After questioning him at length, they advised him to keep a low profile and not join the marchers. Of course my father heeded that advice. Not too long after that, he was drafted into the army with the benefit of becoming an American citizen along with his entire family.
My father was eventually sent to Germany and because he spoke the language he was very useful in many ways. He even became the driver of General Powell (who later became a Supreme Court justice). He also helped liberate Buchenwald, the camp he had actually spent time in as a prisoner at the age of 16 before he was released to England, where he worked very hard to get his family out of Germany.
This is just a small part of my father’s unique story, but I thought readers would find it interesting.
Leah Brown, Far Rockaway
More Beautiful than You Can Imagine [Inbox / Issue 873]
I was deeply saddened by the letters speaking so candidly about the downsides of living in Eretz Yisrael. I felt the same when reading the description of some experiences of bureaucracy in the previous issue.
Whether the opinions expressed were true or not, all I could hear in my mind was the voice of Kalev and Yehoshua, “Aloh na’aleh… ki yachol nuchal lah…. Tovah ha’aretz me’od me’od! — Let us go up… for we can succeed there…. The Land is very, very good!”
The negative reports may or may not be true, but Hashem is here in Eretz Yisrael, inviting us to return along with the nearly 7 million brethren who have already done so.
Are there challenges? Hashem will stand beside us. Are there foes? Hashem will fight them. Life requires bitachon and focus on what’s really important.
There’s a song I once wrote whose lyric seems so apropos:
Where is our hope, our faith, our pride?/ Where’s the desire, the love deep inside?
When we say we want Mashiach to come/ We can reconnect to the Holy One.
It’s not just about wishing to be here in Israel. It’s about really wanting it, and really believing that Hashem will do it for us if we want it enough. It’s about knowing where our destiny lies, and what the entire Torah is leading to — from Lech lecha — Hashem’s command to come to Israel — through Moshe Rabbeinu’s desire to enter the Land. It’s about seeing the big picture of history and Hashem’s guiding Hand that is bringing us home. And trusting Him that He will help us at every stage in our Holy Land.
I hope no more negative reports are spoken of this wonderful Land. I can tell you personally, after living here for over 20 years, that it is more beautiful than you can imagine, getting more beautiful with each passing day.
Please come home and join the many beautiful Jewish (and American!) communities where frum life is thriving and succeeding.
Stuck in Training [Inbox / Issue 873]
There once was a man named Jack Cohen. Jack was a diligent and intelligent medical student studying in one of the nation’s finest institutions, who trained under a superb staff in a state-of-the-art hospital. All was going well for Jack until he got his first real job as a resident in a hospital far from his hometown.
When he arrived, he realized that things were very different from his previous place, his training ground. This hospital was newer and didn’t have the same experienced staff as where he’d trained. This hospital did not have as much money as his training hospital had and therefore was not as modern and advanced.
Back when he’d been learning and training, Jack had the help and support he needed. He was never expected to make really difficult decisions because there was always a supervisor to ask and all the other medical students always helped and supported each other. But, in this new setting, Jack was on his own. While in training he always did well, in this real-life setting he felt like he was often failing.
Jack could not take this “real life” so he made a simple decision. He decided to go back to medical school and train for the rest of his life. It would be easier, he knew what to expect, and he would have all the support he wanted.
When we read this story we laugh at the absurdity and stupidity of Jack. Of course the “real life” is much harder than the training. Of course in training one will be more successful. The training is simply the best that can be done to prepare a person for the “real life” where he will have to build upon what he trained for and apply that to new situations and simply grow from experience. So, isn’t it odd that so many of us are acting precisely like Jack?
In reading the back-and-forth about Eretz Yisrael, this is exactly what I see again and again. How can one move to Israel if community life is so much healthier in the US? Isn’t the chinuch so much better and balanced in the US? What if my kids lose their Americanism and become Israeli, chas v’shalom (a sad statement on its own).
My answer is: So what! Even if you cannot find a community like in the US and a school exactly to your liking, this should not be a deterrent. The Ramban says that doing mitzvos in chutz l’Aretz is just a training for kiyum mitzvos in Eretz Yisrael. Chutz l’Aretz was a necessary training ground for close to 2,000 years when G-d did not find us ready to come home and start living the “real” life as Jews in Eretz Yisrael, but a training ground it was and is.
Finally, G-d opens the doors and invites us “home” to where we really belong and where we can “really” be mekayem mitzvos. We can live as “Am Yisrael” for real and not just in training.
Of course, since this is the “real thing,” it comes with more “real” challenges and difficulties, but real it is. What a tremendous zechus for our time! So what do some of us do? We say: “The training is so much easier and safer than the real thing, so we will opt to continue training, thank you.”
Absurd, but so sadly the case.
Simple Solution [Special Circumstances / Issue 873]
Thank you for such a beautiful magazine that you put out weekly. We save your magazine every week to enjoy on Shabbos. My favorite column is Double Take. I very much enjoy hearing two sides of every story and how in many circumstances it’s challenging, because both sides have valid points.
This week I was a bit disturbed by the story. It sounds like the mechutanim of the family with a child with special needs are used to getting things their way (possibly due to their wealth) and weren’t really being open-minded to another party. The very simple solution that was quickly dismissed by her daughter was to have two separate tables of children, one for each side. They each could even have been on two different ends of the room.
The family with the special-needs child had many cousins and siblings that were willing to spend time with her and keep an eye in her. It sounds like Shevy was looking to “punish” this precious little girl. She dismissed this solution very quickly and promptly — my guess would be that maybe their family was smaller or less “fun” and she didn’t want her kids to miss out.
May we all be zocheh to see the special neshamos in these children and have the opportunity to notice them l’tovah.
Stay Home, Stay Clean [Special Circumstances / Issue 873]
I read this week’s Double Take, and I did a double take. I must tell you I was shocked by your magazine, which is usually so politically correct and so kind in your reporting, to print a story like this. How heartless can people be to criticize and condemn a special-needs child because she doesn’t fit into the perfect little girl image?
What are you teaching young children about being accepting of people not like them? You can’t hide these children of Hashem. Everyone has a niece or a nephew or a cousin or a friend’s grandchild that is like this little girl. Don’t you think she and her family want to be perfect?
I would tell the terrified children not to attend the simchah — this way their party dresses will stay immaculate.
I’m honestly shocked that you would print such a heartless story, and shame on the adults involved to be so hurtful.
Not Their Place [Special Circumstances / Issue 873]
Thank you for your Double Take story.
Children — whether special needs or neurotypical — who won’t behave, will be disruptive, or who will annoy the baal simchah or the other guests, should never be brought to a simchah.
How Painful [Special Circumstances / Issue 873]
I have honestly just put down the magazine after reading the Double Take story. That’s how painful it was.
I am the mother of a nonverbal six-year-old child with developmental delays. I can honestly tell you the heartbreaking anxiety that goes into each decision I make to bring my child to a simchah, for the very reason the article portrayed.
I am in a catch-22 every time I get an invitation to a simchah. I know that 90 percent of the time, if I am unable to leave my daughter with a family member, I will be her caregiver for however long the simchah is. For me, it is not a simchah.
My daughter cries as if she is a baby, with long loud wails. At a family wedding a few months ago, I was a nervous wreck waiting for the “thing” that could set off her screaming, crying, hitting tantrums. And the “thing” did happen and my husband and I had to physically remove my daughter, who only wanted to dance on the dance floor, so that the rabbi could give a speech. We had to remove her even outside of the hall, abandoning my two other children for the 20 minutes of the speech. Her screams echoed through the darkness while my own echoed inside my heart.
The relief I feel when I am able to get a sitter — a very rare one that would actually take her because of her disabilities — comes along with a feeling of betrayal, because I know I can have a good time and not be burdened by her and the stigma she provides.
I love my daughter, but I did not choose to be in this position. I cannot even call this a nisayon because when she is able to be herself she is the most loving, happy, friendly child who makes friends easily. The thing that makes it a nisayon are people like Gila and her family.
I cannot control my daughter. I understand this is your simchah. I understand she is just “the other side.” I wish that I could change her. But I can’t. You can change your outlook and how you approach it with your children.
It Goes Both Ways [Special Circumstances / Issue 873]
I read this week’s Double Take with mixed feelings.
As the mother of a special-needs child, I was deeply hurt by the behavior of the other side. Come on, they are adults, and supposedly frum ones, who should be more sensitive. No one is immune to the possibility of it ever happening to them, and yes it’s a great opportunity to teach the children how they should be more accepting of those who are different. A shame the opportunity was missed.
On the other hand, when I look around me, I do think that we, the parents of special-needs children, can’t get away with everything. We do have to be sensitive to our surroundings; we can’t expect people to always give in to us. We do have to try and help our children integrate as much as possible in society, not always at the expense of others. Sometimes we have to bribe them to stay home, as we and our other children need to enjoy a simchah without being worried about our special child’s whereabouts or activities.
I would like to shout out to the world: Please remember that however much we love our precious neshamos, we still have so much pain, fatigue, and worry. Please be sensitive to us.
And to all parents of special children, remember that your requests for sensitivity and consideration can backfire if you are not able to consider other people’s feelings.
Famous Fundraiser [Mexican Revolution / Issue 872]
I read with interest and excitement the article written by Yochonon Donn about the amazing transformation of Mexico’s Torah community. Reb Moshe Tussie relates how in the 1950s, a fundraiser for Brooklyn’s Yeshiva Torah Vodaath came and said, “Give me your boys. I’ll take them back to Torah Vodaath, and I’ll see to it that they get a solid Jewish education.”
This fundraiser was our grandfather, Rav Mordechai Wulliger — author of Pardes Mordechai, Oitzer Hashas and many more seforim, and an emissary of Rav Boruch Ber and later of Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz.
Rav Yitzchok Karp, the son in-law of Rav Shraga Feivel, told me that Rav Simcha Avrohom HaKohen Sheps once attributed the pasuk in Tehillim “teref nasan l’yireiav yizkor l’olam briso” to Rav Wulliger. “Teref” refers to parnassah, and Hashem gave Rav Wulliger the challenge of parnassah because through his travels through the deserts of American cities, he reminded Hashem’s children of their eternal covenant.
Many articles have been written about the amazing work of our grandfather. In an article penned by Rabbi Moshe Kaiman, rabbi of Monterrey, Mexico, in the Algemeiner Journal in 1995, he writes that in the years after World War II many distinguished rabbanim and fundraisers came to Mexico and stayed in his home. Due to the sheer number of guests, Rabbi Kaiman wasn’t able to personally accompany them during their fundraising activities. However, when Rabbi Wulliger arrived, he made an interesting request: “Please make me a list of families with young children, so I can speak to the parents about enrolling them in yeshivah.”
Rabbi Kaiman decided to accompany Rabbi Wulliger, and he watched as Rabbi Wulliger would enter a home, notice they had young boys, and forget he was there to raise funds. Instead he’d focus on convincing the parents to send their children to Torah Vodaath, since he saw this as the only way to ensure they would remain frum.
Rabbi Wulliger even convinced Rabbi Kaiman himself to send his oldest son, Henoch, age 11, as well as their son Chuna, age 9, back to New York. (Chuna was technically too young to be accepted, but Rabbi Wulliger prevailed on the yeshivah to take him.)
Traveling throughout the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, our grandfather merited spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit to thousands of Yidden who kept up with him and turned to him for advice and guidance. He merited bringing to Torah Vodaath dozens of young boys, many of whom are currently leading rabbanim and roshei yeshivah. I’m sure that up there from his place in Gan Eden, Rav Mordechai is smiling as he watches the Torah community undergo an amazing transformation.
We are working on a biography on our grandparents Rabbi and Rebbetzin Wulliger, and are especially interested in any information, letters, or photos of his travels through America. If you have any of these items to share, please email ZaidyWulliger@gmail.com.
Rabbi S. Wulliger
Rosh Machon Magid Mordechai
Strong Roots [Sacred Stamp / Issue 872]
Thank you so much for your featured article in your magazine on my uncle, Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock ztz”l.
For the record, my zaide, Moreinu Rav Avrohom Feigelstock ztz”l (Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock’s father), received semichah and the title “Moreinu Rav” from Rav Yosef Zvi Dushinsky ztz”l. He learned under Rav Dushinsky for many years, as well as under Rav Akiva Sofer in Pressburg. My zaide was more involved in chinuch and learning than in business; he had more seforim in his business office than at home and was well known for his Torah learning.
No Matter Who You Are [Lonely at the Top / Issue 868]
If our greatest hope in solving the “teacher crisis” lies in the concerted efforts of each individual in Klal Yisrael, then here are my humble words of inspiration to each “individual” group of our klal.
To the mothers-in-law:
Know that your future daughter-in-law’s occupation of choice will have a direct effect on your son’s and grandchildren’s home. A daughter-in-law who is a morah is spending a large portion of her time striving to be mechanech the children of HaKadosh Baruch Hu al pi Torah. What a glorious focus! Might I add, a daughter-in-law who is a morah is off when her children are off. (Translation: She won’t need you to babysit as often whenever school is out!)
To the askanim:
Please take a good hard look at the baseline salary of the teachers, especially the morahs. Ask yourselves if the amount of time and effort that you know are necessary for the job are being acknowledged in the form of a respectable paycheck. And if it isn’t, can you work your magic to make it so? What more worthy cause could there be than ensuring financial security for the teachers of our next generation of leaders?
To the menahelim:
You know what it takes to be a good teacher. Love. Care. Patience. TIME. When those morahs leave your school building, they go from 100 percent devotion to their students, to 100 percent devotion to their families. It is hard to mix the two, though they do it all the time.
Perhaps consider hiring the morahs to stay on an extra hour or two for “prep time”? The public schools do it, why can’t we? How wonderful it would be if while on “company time,” teachers could do those all-important tasks such as connecting one-on-one with individual students, emailing nachas reports, reaching out to parents, or fine-tuning their lesson plans. You are your teachers’ greatest supporter — use your influence to help her be the best she can be by giving her the gift of time.
To our dearest Bnos Yisrael:
You. Can. Make. A. Difference.
Are you blessed with oratory skills? Then be a teacher! Struggled your whole life in school? Be a teacher! Chances are that you could be a pretty amazing teacher — after all, who better than you knows what kids really need? Want to make a difference? Be a teacher! It’s one of the most rewarding jobs out there. Why should you miss out?
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 874)
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