"It isn’t always because of stigma or denial that we keep our children in a school setting where they can’t keep up"
Disappointing Cover [Magazine Cover / Issue 875]
I always look forward to Thursday morning when I find my Mishpacha at the door. Last week I was highly disappointed. The Taliban terrorist enlarged on the front cover was something I do not want to have lying around in my house. There is a reason why I don’t bring in the New York Times.
This has happened in the past but it has gotten better. Why should you spoil your brand name for one week?
I’m thanking you for the most interesting and inspiring, highly Jewish magazine. Please keep it coming in kosher form.
No Perfect Option [Inbox / Issue 875]
I really appreciated reading Dr. Weller’s letter in this week’s magazine about parents’ reluctance to send their learning-challenged children to special schools due to concerns about stigma.
However, for those of us who do not have a frum option in our community for our learning-challenged kids, it’s not so simple. Many of us have no concern about stigma or shidduchim when we leave our child in a mainstream yeshivah setting, and attempt to help them manage though “private tutoring” and pulling them out of class privately during the day. For many of us, it is either this or send them to a more educationally appropriate school that is completely secular.
My family lives in a very large frum community outside the Tristate area. For a variety of reasons, many related to how educational funding works in our state, there are really no frum special-needs schools here. I know families of special-needs kids who have moved to other states for this reason. Moving was not an option for our family.
I have two young adult children who were diagnosed when they were very young with learning challenges and, in the case of one, behavior issues. We kept the older one in mainstream frum schools throughout, with a lot of extra help throughout elementary school. This child went to a small high school with plenty of individual attention from caring teachers. Sadly, after this child graduated, that wonderful high school closed, due to low enrollment.
My other child moved from a yeshivah setting to a secular special-needs school at the end of second grade. The behavior challenges were too great to be handled in a regular setting. This child has gotten all the support and help needed in school. But this child is in a completely secular setting, and any Torah learning must be done through private tutors, after school and Sundays.
We have a close, warm family, and both of these children are very connected to the family. But while the older child (now a young adult) has been successful in college, and in life in general, they are completely secular in every way. The younger one is not particularly committed to Yiddishkeit, but is not (yet) openly rebellious against Torah, like the older sibling.
So who can say, looking back, what choices were “right or wrong” or “good or bad”? A parent researches, asks daas Torah, davens, and makes the best decisions he or she can make.
It isn’t always because of stigma or denial that we keep our children in a school setting where they can’t keep up. Sometimes the only other choice is putting them in a setting where the values can be diametrically opposed to our Torah values. Some parents are caught between a rock and a hard place.
A mother who constantly second-guesses herself
Close to Home [Special Circumstances / Double Take — Issue 873]
As the mother of special-needs children, I read the Double Take story “Special Circumstances” with interest.
My special-needs children are now adults. I’m used to them being looked at and avoided. When I was young, with a houseful of kids, my family was far away and I had no one to help me. I bless each of my friends and neighbors who would invite us in. Not everyone did.
One thing that always stays with me was a story my sister went through. Her son, who also has special needs, needed a yeshivah day school. Forty years ago there were very few in general, and none in her area in New Jersey. She and her husband and other parents in the shul had the mazel of living in the same neighbor as Rabbi Wally Greene, then principal of Kushner Academy. A woman in the shul named Mrs. Lorraine Rothwachs was a special education educator. Together the little group formed the base of what is now Sinai Academy.
When they needed funding, they asked everyone they knew. One askan, a frum, erlich man, said, “What do kids like that need a yeshivah for?” And he gave a token donation.
Fast-forward however many years it was and wouldn’t you know — the answer to his question was, “When it’s your own kid, you need it!”
Just another lesson to us all.
The Parents’ Responsibility [Special Circumstances / Double Take — Issue 873]
I’d like to respond to last week’s letter accusing me of a “shocking lack of grace” for questioning whether a disruptive special-needs child really belongs at a simchah.
I am sure you are aware of how much physical and emotional energy and resources go into making a simchah, especially a daughter’s wedding. The kallah and her family are looking forward to this very special occasion all their lives. How sad when the (adult) guests selfishly refuse to be respectful of the enormity of the moment and don’t care if they cause serious disruption to the joy of the evening.
It is a tremendous mitzvah to be mesameiach a chassan and kallah on their special night. We can imagine that doing the opposite is no small matter...
In the original story, Toby was being verbally and physically aggressive to the other children. Nobody deserves to be abused by anyone, especially not at an event that’s supposed to be a memorable night of happiness. Her mother was too busy enjoying herself with the other adults to make sure this didn’t happen.
To clarify, I wasn’t blaming the children. I was putting the responsibility squarely with the parents. It is their duty to make sure their children, whether special needs or neurotypical, don’t ruin another person’s simchah. The chassan and kallah and the baalei simchah, who are paying a lot of money for this event, deserve this much consideration.
I had a special-needs brother with behavioral issues. He acted like a gentleman at weddings. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he misbehaved, he would be taken home. My parents took care of him, or arranged in advance for another adult to supervise him, and didn’t feel entitled to “consideration” from everyone around them. They acknowledged that you can’t always do what is best for the special-needs child. Sometimes you have to do what is best for everyone else. And they took responsibility for that.
Snow Didn’t Stop Him [Five-Star Standard / Issue 855]
I very much enjoy Mishpacha magazine and read it cover to cover every Shabbos. I appreciate the professionalism, the presentation of a wide range of topics, the regular columnists, and the guest contributors.
One article I enjoyed was about Rav Moshe Heinemann. Back in 2003, my parents personally interacted with the Rav. At the time my parents (Henry and Faigie Goodman) were living in Lynn, Massachusetts, north of Boston. My parents were hoping to revive their shul and attract young families. One idea was to build an eruv. They were in contact with the Greater Boston Eruv Corporation and Dr. Jesse Hefter arranged for Rabbi Heinemann to come visit Lynn to see if and how an eruv could be constructed for that area.
I remember how impressed my parents were with Rabbi Heinemann. They appreciated his demeanor, his knowledge, his respectful treatment of them, and his agility! Rabbi Heinemann walked endlessly through snow and ice with my parents to take measurements and get a sense of the area that ideally should be included. One sh’eilah was how to incorporate the walkways and park that abut the ocean. Rabbi Heinemann set out to measure the sea wall to answer this question. My father took pictures and sent them to me.
When I read the Mishpacha article, I recalled those pictures and that experience. As usual, I did not write in. Then the other day I was sorting through some papers and pictures and I came across my father’s photos of Rabbi Heinemann measuring the sea wall! In my opinion, they are dramatic photos and I thought your readers might enjoy seeing them.
In the end, I don’t think an eruv was constructed in Lynn and my parents have since relocated to Monsey, New York. Still, Rabbi Heinemann’s visit to Lynn made a lasting impression.
Thank you for a wonderful magazine.
Chava Shiel, New Hempstead, NY
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 877)
Oops! We could not locate your form.