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Inbox: Issue 912

"Schools, please figure out how to financially stabilize our teachers. If you can’t, we’ll lose them and then we’ll all lose out"


Ear-Opening Experience [Inbox / Issue 911]

As a mother of a (now adult) child who was born with microtia and atresia over 30 years ago, I have been happily following Ruti Kepler’s serial Light Years Away, and was pleased to finally see a letter from another parent.

While my experiences were many years ago, they were very different from those of reader F.P., so I wanted to share mine as well.

We were very fortunate to learn of a very special man, Dr. Burt Brent, a plastic surgeon who pioneered reconstructive surgery of ears for microtia. He was a kind, caring person. A true mensch. He spent many years perfecting his techniques in the four-part surgery that took place over the course of a year (another stage performed every three months). The first surgery takes place when the child is six years old, as he felt there would be emotional damage past that age, due to teasing from other children.

Dr. Brent also focused on teaching his technique to other doctors, so children around the world could benefit from what he had learned. Dr. Brent introduced us to Jack Gross, another amazing man who created a support group of parents in the New York area.

Once or twice a year, he would bring Dr. Brent in from California and Dr. Jahrsdoerfer (a pediatric ENT who created the ear canal) in from Texas (he later moved to Virginia), to meet with parents free of charge. We would meet with the doctors at Manhattan Day School in New York City. There was a meeting to learn of advances in the field, food and entertainment for the children, and individual one-on-one meetings with the doctors. It was an amazingly warm and supportive group.

Our son went through the four-stage operation with Dr. Brent and then followed with Dr. Jahrsdoerfer to build the ear canal. The ear does require cleaning on an annual basis, but this is a relatively simple procedure done in the office of an ENT familiar with the process. I do not know of anyone who had to repeat the surgery ten years later.

I disagree with the reader and would strongly recommend going ahead with surgery. It is life-changing. Choose your surgeon carefully, as skill and experience are very important.

I am available to speak with any parent of a child born with microtia and atresia. I can be contacted through Mishpacha.



The Warmest Teddy Bears [Shul with a View / Issue 911]

For close to 40 years, our mother, Mrs. Gertie Lipschutz a”h, walked the halls of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, visiting patients and “dispers[ing] the darkness of loneliness” as Rabbi Eisenman so aptly describes of his encounter with Chesed 24/7.

She dispensed words of chizuk and practical assistance, as she offered cups of warm vegetable soup and little “refuah sheleimah” teddy bears to patients in every part of the hospital.

After her petirah, her granddaughter sought to perpetuate her legacy by continuing to have teddy bears distributed through Chesed 24/7, and our family has received many warm regards about them!

Rabbi Eisenman’s reference to the teddy bear in the “Shabbos box” was particularly poignant for us; it appeared in print just days after we marked the first yartzheit of our dear mother, Gitel bas Yoseph a”h.

Yehei zichrah baruch.

The Lipschutz Family


Teachers, Take Stock [Works for Me / Issue 911]

Thanks for a great magazine.

In “Works for Me,” Shaina Keren advises a teacher transitioning to a new career. In addition to the helpful suggestions in the article, teachers transitioning to new careers should avail themselves of the many online resources available to help them, which have helped many teachers successfully transition to new fields.

Teachers should take a long, hard look at their financial futures, and take advantage of the many opportunities available outside of the classroom where they can utilize their talents, nurture their creativity, and meaningfully impact both Klal Yisrael and the world at large.

Teachers who intend to stay in the classroom long term should carefully examine the school that they teach in and actively explore whether or not there are opportunities for consistent incremental raises, however minimal, over the years, which can indicate whether the institution truly values nurturing employees’ abilities to stay from a financial perspective.

There are most certainly schools that have done their best to invest in teachers’ financial well-being, and if a teacher finds herself in a school that does not, she should look for one that does, or consider a career outside of teaching for the sake of her family’s financial future.

Teachers, take stock of your financial futures before it’s too late. Your families will thank you for it. There are many opportunities out there.

Schools, please figure out how to financially stabilize our teachers. If you can’t, we’ll lose them and then we’ll all lose out. They’re not looking for riches, but just basic financial stability.

Name Withheld


I’m Not Jealous [Inbox / Issue 910]

Thank you so much for continuously great reading material. I am inspired and enlightened again and again. I am excited by the topic that was finally opened, since I too am a single girl in my early twenties.

I often wonder about the idea of all singles being miserable. I personally am loving my time now. I’m working without the pressure of needing the money. I have the time to experiment with jobs to see what’s right for me. I get to enjoy and develop myself in a way I know my married friends can’t.

I actually strongly believe the so-called shidduch crisis is very good for Klal Yisrael. It is creating a pressure to need to be married. I can’t imagine young girls jumping into this life-altering stage if not for the pressure and status the crisis creates.

Yes, it can sometimes be lonely, but a husband wouldn’t totally heal that; so I work on enjoying my own company. Yes, I’m sure marriage is great. It actually is what Hashem wants, but for now I’m not jealous.



Not Her Tafkid Right Now [Inbox / Issue 910]

I’ve been following the discussion regarding the portrayal of singles as pitiful and/or lonely. This topic is a difficult one because it is a place where we, as committed Yidden, sharply diverge from our surrounding culture, in which women are encouraged to find fulfillment in careers and other forms of self-development, and in which opting for a “child-free” life is seen as a legitimate choice. Our Torah values dictate that a woman finds the greatest spiritual fulfillment in building a home… yet not everyone has the opportunity to do so.

I’ve come to understand that Hashem has assigned a specific tafkid to each of us at each stage of our lives. For a woman who finds herself single despite efforts to find a husband, her tafkid at this time is something other than having a family. She is not a “nebach case.” She simply has another tafkid. Of course, this is not to deny any feelings of loneliness or yearning — those are very real and we should absolutely empathize with her. But at the same time, we should understand and accept that she is an adult with a unique role to fulfill in Klal Yisrael.

As for my personal experience: Due to factors beyond my control, I am currently experiencing serious challenges in my marriage that preclude my participation in certain mitzvos I previously viewed as central to my role as a frum woman. I would love to be like “everyone else,” but it’s clear to me that this is not my tafkid at this time. I am working on myself not to fear the future but rather to continue moving forward by doing the next right thing each step of the way.

This is all not so much about who is the “nebach” as it is about accepting our individual tafkid, assigned to us by our loving Creator, and accepting that others may have a tafkid that differs from our own.

Name Withheld


I Set My Boundaries [Status Symbol / Open Mic — Issue 910]

I wanted to thank you for Yosef Wartelsky’s article “Status Symbol,” about our community’s use of WhatsApp.

I used to have WhatsApp, but then deleted it because it was way too addictive. That worked for a while (several years) until my parents left for a brief vacation in Israel and WhatsApping was the best way to stay in touch with them. Then, I took it off shortly after and put it back on. Yeah, I know... I was having FOMO. I missed seeing all the statuses and getting that adrenaline rush; I missed being in that world. But I also did not want to fall into the same trap as I had previously and spend all day on it.

So I made myself some boundaries. I took off the “last seen” and blue check marks feature. I also put a time limit of 30 minutes per day and I made a decision not to use WhatsApp as my main mode of communication. If someone WhatsApps me, I’ll respond, and discontinue the conversation by sharing my boundaries.

I also only use my status as a way of advertising and sharing information. For example, if I hear (via Chazkeinu’s support group) that someone is in need of money for mental health expenses, I’ll post that. And the only person I use WhatsApp for is a very close friend I’m in touch with on an almost daily basis and is hard to reach by text.

And no, baruch Hashem, I haven’t gone over my limit of 30 minutes a day. I simply can’t — those boundaries are how I create a safe space while using WhatsApp. If I’m over my limit, I’ll go back to regular texting.

Baruch Hashem, this is working for me. Perhaps others will be inspired to take action and modify their WhatsApp usage.



The Choice We Made [Status Symbol / Open Mic — Issue 910]

I was glad to see that readers responded to the Open Mic piece by Yosef Wartelsky.

The fact that someone had an epiphany about WhatsApp being the antithesis of tzniyus and “mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov” only underscores how social media desensitizes its users. Because to those of us who choose not to utilize these platforms, that point is patently obvious, and has been for years.

Yes, we cringe when people display family pictures to their 500 closest “friends” and overshare and broadcast their thoughts about anything and everything to the world.

The author made it sound as if there are some lofty cloistered communities where smartphone use doesn’t exist, but in the rest of the frum world this is normal. The truth of the matter is that the lines are not drawn quite so cleanly.

Those of us who don’t use smartphones aren’t doing it just because that’s our societal norm. We are surrounded by smartphone users — on our blocks, at our jobs, at the supermarket, gym, and doctor’s office. Avoiding smartphones is a choice we’ve made and continue to make, despite the inconvenience and perhaps the FOMO that brings.

Don’t make it sound like this is a choice we made blindly because we live in naive sheltered societies; perhaps we just knew all along what you’re suddenly realizing.

And all those tzedakah campaigns? Don’t worry. Get off of WhatsApp and you’ll see, those people will find you anyway.

As an aside to the publishers, consistent printing of articles like this or serials or even inspirational pieces that treat smartphone and social media usage matter-of-factly, serve to accomplish the opposite of their goal. Instead of discouraging their use, they normalize it. Hey, it might have its problems, but this is what everyone’s doing, is the message we get. If rabbanim have clearly come out against something, what right does a publication have to present it as a viable, though perhaps flawed, choice?

D. R., Toms River


The Girls, Too [All of Hashem’s Children / Issue 910]

Thank you for your tribute to Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein. We are graduates of Crown Heights Yeshiva and wanted to add that Rabbi Wallerstein’s generosity was not limited to the boys at school.

Even though he wasn’t officially our rebbi, he financially helped our parents — and many other girls’ families — so they could send us to Jewish high schools. His support most definitely changed the trajectory of our lives.

Ronete Hikry, Long Island

Karen Marocco, Cleveland

Shannon Shamah, Brooklyn


Meant to Be Lived In [A Friend in Need / Double Take — Issue 910]

Thank you as always for a wonderful magazine. This Double Take story about the baby clothing moved me in a very real way.

When I had my first son, he was a first grandson and nephew, and so his many aunts were very excited. They became his “personal shoppers” who gifted him with beautiful clothes galore.

And so I too lovingly organized and stored his clothes for the next child. I am also very sentimental, and I so love those plastic containers for organizing (I do not color code or starch though). Baruch Hashem, Baby Boy #2 came and the clothes were put to good use.

Shortly after I gave birth, an acquaintance had a boy after a few girls. We were not best friends, but I imagined that having to purchase an entire wardrobe is not easy, especially when all of her family lives across the ocean.

I was getting ready to put my newborn stuff back into storage, but then I stopped. I called up and offered to drop off what I had. This woman so wisely said that she did not want to borrow the clothes and be responsible for anything that happens. I quickly reassured her that the clothes are a gift to keep because you cannot lend clothes to a baby and a new mother and expect her to keep them in just-bought condition. Clothes are meant to be lived in and babies are simply unpredictable and new moms are tired.

I only did for her what I would want someone else to do for me.

We have no guarantees of what tomorrow will bring. I was not in a situation where I knew I may need the clothes in the near future (and neither was Shifra from the sound of things). I am also a big believer that each child brings their own brachah with them. Why not offer help, if I am in the position to do so? To help a Yid — isn’t that why we are here?

I also felt that storing the clothes for the sake of sentiment made me feel like I’m grounding myself in this galus even more. Between budgeting, retirement, and saving accounts, we forget that at the end of the day all the things we “put away” aren’t really real, and there is Someone else in charge — Someone above all of the rules that govern This World.

These are all ideas we have read about in many forms on the fine pages of this magazine. I really wanted to put these ideas into practice, to give for the sake of giving and helping. By lending out the clothes with no strings attached, maybe I can emulate the inspiring stories and actions of the gedolim we read about.

A.R., Yerushalayim


A Privilege [Inbox / Issue 909]

Kudos to Shimmy Atlas of Chicago who wrote in praising Rabbi Yanky Robinson for volunteering as a bus driver when the school could not find any.

My first cousin was among the first heimishe bus drivers in Boro Park and his father was initially upset and embarrassed when he took the job. Today, baruch Hashem, he can’t be any prouder that his son sits and learns and has the zechus to drive heilige kinderlach twice a day to and from cheder.

Moshe A. Steinberg, Boro Park


Family Connection [For the Record / Issue 907]

I enjoyed the very interesting article by Yehuda Geberer and Dovi Safier on “Only Simchahs” in the April 12 issue of Mishpacha.

But I was particularly delighted to see in the simchah announcement of Rav Yisroel Gustman’s engagement, that among the chaveirim signing the announcement, together with Rav Shmuel Rozovsky, was my wife’s choshuve uncle, Rav Arye Leib Milner.

Rav Arye Leib was an older brother of my shver, Rav Hershel Milner, who married the daughter of the Shanghaier Rav, Rav Meir Ashkenazi. (Rav Ashkenazi, parenthetically, was the subject of an earlier article by these same gifted historians.)

Rav Arye Leib’s connection to Rav Gustman was that they were both talmidim of Rav Shimon Shkop in Grodno. He succeeded his father, Rav Zev Milner, as the rav of Sernik, a small town on the outskirts of Pinsk, and was later killed al kiddush Hashem with his mother and other family members.

Hashem yinkom damam.

Rabbi Chaim Cohen,

Lakewood NJ


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 912)

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