Inbox: Issue 917| June 28, 2022
“Teachers shouldn’t have to beg for puny raises and be told that what we are doing is avodas hakodesh”
A Picture and a Prayer [Shul with a View / Issue 916]
After reading Rabbi Eisenman’s article about my sister Chaya Pery Brailofsky a”h, I was overcome with emotion. I channeled it into this painting, depicting how her amazing husband, Zecharia, a pillar of strength, led their sons in song and prayer for hours as my sister’s holy neshamah returned to its Creator. The picture is set by the Kosel, as it’s also a prayer that we should be zocheh to the Geulah.
We should all be able to rejoice together at simchahs.
G. Silber, Chaya Perry’s sister
Grateful for Validation [Light Years Away]
Week after week, I looked forward to Ruti Kepler’s masterful writing.
I identified with Nechami so much. As a kollel wife with three young children, there were times I wanted to embrace Nechami for validating my feelings and giving voice to the reality: There is room for struggle and conflict even in the privileged lifestyle of a kollel couple, and being honest and accepting the challenges makes living this life more manageable and meaningful.
When Nechami imagines the rebbetzins in her head scolding her when she contemplates asking her husband to come home from learning so she can attend a chasunah, it resonated so much. How many times have I thought back to the seminary lessons I learned and thought, “What would my teachers say?”
I have so many similar decisions to make on a daily basis: Should I forfeit help with bath time and bedtime so that my husband can review once more for his weekly tests? Should I agree to let him spend long Shabbos afternoons in shul, leaving me at home to man the fort? Do I rearrange my plans so that he can keep his learning schedule? The examples are endless.
Ruti, you have a monumental zechus in validating so many kollel wives.
A gratified kollel wife
A Peek into Parents’ Lives [Second Dance]
I’m quite enamored with Dov Haller’s current serial, “Second Dance.” So many issues pertinent to middle-aged husbands and wives are being aired and discussed as the plot unfolds. This provides validation for those experiencing similar challenges in their own lives. But perhaps even more crucial, this serial provides a window for adult children. It’s a peek into the lives of their parents, which hopefully will provide them with understanding of what their own parents may be experiencing.
I’m curious as to who is sharing with Haller the nuances of these experiences that challenge our middle-aged population. Is his wife acting as his consultant?
Kudos to Mishpacha and to this talented author. I’m curious to see how this all works out. One thing I know for certain: It will all go according to plan — Hashem’s plan!
Standing by His Product [Built to Rest / Issue 916]
I’d like to share my experience with Kevin Nolan, CEO of GE.
Several years ago, I moved into a house and had my kitchen remodeled. We bought two brand-new GE gas ranges, which were billed as Shabbos compliant. I used one oven on Shabbos, following the instruction manual exactly, and opened the oven door that evening to take out the food. To my horror, the oven light went on when I opened the door.
I contacted GE but the service department had no idea what to do. I then found Kevin Nolan’s email address and wrote to him. To my great surprise, he called me the next day to apologize. He said that these ovens shouldn’t have been marketed as Shabbos compliant and assured me he would take them back and replace them with a superior model that was really Shabbos compliant, all at GE’s cost.
To find someone in the business world who truly stands behind his products and practices real customer service is a rarity. The Jewish community should be honored to work with such an individual.
Rabbi Avrohom Juravel
Spring Valley, NY
Ideals Don’t Pay Bills [Inbox/ Issue 916]
Dear Rabbi Kalter,
I too am a teacher for over a decade, one of those you referred to in your Inbox letter as “elite class.” I love what I do, and I’m an out-of-the-box teacher who reaches her students in a deep way. I teach them to read and write, to love Hashem and Yiddishkiet. It is not about the money, and it is about the avodas hakodesh.
However, no grocer will smile at me and tell me take the bread and cottage cheese for free, because I am a morah. The local shoe store will not give me a pair of cheap sneakers in exchange for the hours I spent writing beautiful report cards. No landlord will give me a break in rent because I speak on the phone to parents trying to solve children’s problems with care and concern. No clothing store will clothe my children because I write letters to my needy students and consult professionals when necessary.
I don’t wish to live a luxurious lifestyle. I don’t need meat boards at my Shabbos table or midwinter break vacations. I simply want to make things work financially so that I can stay where I am and teach with a happy heart. Maybe upping the pay of those dedicated to the chinuch of the next generation will help good teachers stay where they are.
Hoping for change.
There for My Children [Inbox]
I’d like to offer my opinion to the letter writer who told teachers to give up their teaching jobs before it’s too late “for their children and family.”
It’s precisely because of my children that I chose to go into this field and am still here many years later.
Which other job offers you midwinter vacation together with your children?
Which other job offers you a full ten weeks off in the summer so I can give my kids a good time, albeit inexpensively?
Which other job offers Yiddishe mamas days off before and after a Yom Tov?
Which other job allows me to leave my house for a few hours and still get babysitting on-site for my toddlers?
And lastly, which other job would give me so much insight into the lives of children, so I can give my kids a better upbringing than I otherwise would have?
I’m asking you, isn’t it for our children that we would choose to be teachers?
Time to Stand up for Our Teachers [Inbox / 916]
I was very perturbed by the Inbox letter entitled, “Ideals, then Income.”
I am a single girl working as an English teacher for several years. I love teaching and feel that it’s a huge zechus to be in the classroom. But while I started out excited and idealistic, it’s getting harder and harder every year to retain that enthusiasm.
As a single girl paying many of my own expenses, I’m on a much tighter budget than girls in other professions. My very average salary (by NY standards) would barely cover the rent for a frum family. I ask myself often how is this sustainable in the long term.
Teaching is a managerial role, with all of the responsibilities that come with it, but the salary of an entry level worker. In most jobs, after-hours is called overtime. In teaching, it’s considered par for the course. I have the responsibility of the academic and social-emotional well-being of 20 plus students on my head and heart, 24/7. Where is the compensation for that?
Teachers shouldn’t have to beg for puny raises and be told that what we are doing is avodas hakodesh. We shouldn’t be told that “there are ample ways to make it work financially.” Really? It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect teachers to do what often amounts to unpaid chesed for everyone else’s children and then make them feel guilty when they wonder how this is supposed to work.
It’s time to stand up for our teachers. Who’s with me?
A teacher who loves teaching, but wonders every year if it still makes sense
No Gift Unappreciated [Ballot Box / 915]
After reading your Ballot Box about teacher-gift flops, I just have to speak up from both the parent’s and the teacher’s end.
As a parent, I don’t have the means to send teachers expensive gift cards. I hope my sincere, detailed thank-you note and smaller, thought-out gifts are accepted and appreciated for what they are: a small token of appreciation for the love and chinuch my child received from the morah, rebbi, or teacher. Please don’t laugh about my gift — if I gave you cash or an Amazon card for the amount I’m able to spend, it would be embarrassing. I’m happy to be able to stretch what I have in a creative, thoughtful way.
As a morah — no end of the year thank-you gesture goes unappreciated. I don’t laugh or scoff at anything. The best ones are the personalized, sincere notes and letters from my students and their parents. They give me chizuk. I’ve never looked down on a gift that was “too petty,” “not my hechsher,” or “below said-parent’s paygrade.” It’s a shame to make grateful parents think that their children’s teachers think that way. The fact that a parent felt the desire to go above and beyond the PTA-collection standard gift is touching on its own.
I hope this clarifies things a bit for those of you who read this humor column like I did. It left a bitter taste in my mouth going into summer break.
A very experienced morah
Political Irony [Death by a Thousand Cuts / 916]
MK Kisch makes a number of problematic claims in his interview. I hope that Mishpacha readers consider the following:
One of the most basic functions of a government is to pass a budget. And yet, in May 2021, Israel was still operating on a budget passed in 2018, well before the pandemic hit. The fact that Bennet was able to form a coalition and pass a budget is an undeniable accomplishment, one that the government owes its people and that Netanyahu failed to deliver. Why?
Kisch claims that there could have been a right-wing government. Well then, why wasn’t there one? Why are we going back to the polls again? The answer to these questions is sad and ironic. Despite there being a clear right-wing majority in the electorate, there was no right-wing government due to one man’s ambitions. If Bibi would have stepped aside and let someone else take the leadership role, then we would have had a stable and broad right- wing coalition, numbering up to 70 seats or more. He could have handed over the reins to a respected and less polarizing politician like Yuli Edelstein or Yisrael Katz.
The claim that Bennet is driven only by a lust for power is ironic. The time has come for the people of Israel to demand a stable and functional government.
A concerned citizen
Word to the Wise [They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah / Issue 916]
Thank you for this article; I hope it will prevent a lot of chillul Hashem. I was surprised that it didn’t mention Rabbi Ari Wasserman’s fantastic books on halachah and hashkafah in the workplace, for both the general public (Making It Work) and for women specifically (Making It All Work).
I actually didn’t attend Bais Yaakov but I did grow up frum and work at a tech start-up. Here are some pointers that I think would apply to frum women more so than men:
1) You might be used to centering your conversations around kids and parenting. Don’t assume that anyone your age is at this stage of life or will have any interest in this topic. Don’t expect anyone on your team in the corporate world to understand what it’s like to balance full-time work and multiple small children.
2) In the corporate world, you are expected to negotiate for a signing bonus and ask regularly for raises — no one will fire you just for asking respectfully for more money or better terms (and if they do, then that is a giant red flag that you shouldn’t work there anyway!).
3) You might work exclusively with men on a day-to-day basis. It is very hard to be successful without networking, so you can try to connect with women in other departments (you might be able to ask HR to create a monthly get-together just for women — that’s very trendy these days). Try to cultivate as many friendships with tech-savvy frum women as you can and be very, very careful, so you don’t find yourself sending tech memes to your male coworkers.
Anonymous (since none of this is PC enough for my ultra-liberal employer)
Kiddush Hashem in the Office [They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah / Issue 916]
Reading Chaim Shapiro’s excellent piece on yeshivah graduates in the corporate world reminded me of advice that Rav Avraham Pam ztz”l once offered a young man who was about to enter the corporate world. Permit me to quote from ArtScroll’s biography of Rav Pam:
The son of one of Rav Pam’s former talmidim was about to begin his first job, in a Manhattan office where the boss was a non-religious Jew and the workers were non-Jews. The father told his son that before he began work, he should meet with Rav Pam and present any questions he might have relating to a ben Torah’s conduct in the workplace.
The young man had one question for Rav Pam: Given that he was going to be the only Orthodox Jew in the office, should he perhaps not wear a yarmulke at work?
Rav Pam said that this was out of the question; if taking off his yarmulke was the only way he could work there, he should not take the job. However, said Rav Pam, “To succeed there, make sure to fulfill these three conditions: You must be the hardest worker in the office, the most honest worker in the office, and the most pleasant worker in the office.”
In his last public address (delivered via video at the Agudath Israel convention), Rav Pam quotes Shlomo Hamelech: “G-d made man yashar [straight]” (Koheles 7:29). He commented: When one acts with yashrus, in a straightforward, honest manner, he is mekadeish Sheim Shamayaim. This is true for every Jew and especially for those who interact with non-Jews and secular Jews on a daily basis.
Rabbi Shimon Finkelman
Why Enter the Lion’s Den [They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah / Issue 916]
I found the article about the challenges yeshivah graduates face in corporate America to be very informative. Being prepared and informed is crucial to successfully integrating into the secular workplace.
However, the article can be read from a very different perspective as well. To paraphrase and summarize key points in the article, someone securing a career in a Fortune 100 company will face significant challenges in halachah and hashkafah.
He may have to compromise on the formal attire of a ben Torah. He may have issues with shaving during halachically prohibited times. He must be prepared to hear inappropriate language and phrases. The company will often have Internet and smartphone requirements that will not be compatible with kosher filters.
The old ideal of minding one’s business, working hard, doing your job, and going home no longer cuts it. He must fit in socially with his non-Jewish coworkers; self-segregating with other frum Jews in the firm will be viewed negatively.
He will encounter coworkers with immoral personal relationships; reacting negatively to their relationships or life cycle events will be grounds for termination. He may even be required to use gender pronouns in describing himself.
He will hear coworkers passionately defend horrific ideas and ideals but must remain silent, avoiding speaking about his values or views, and steering clear of any discussion of policing or equity issues. Discussing sports will allow him to be relevant and fit in with the workplace culture.
It’s of supreme importance to be seen as one of the team, so simply avoiding office parties, life-cycle events, and celebrations is a no-no.
He’ll have challenges when it comes to shaking hands with women, especially on stage at public events. Meetings frequently incorporate yichud issues.
Given all of the above, perhaps the best piece of advice would be to eschew a career in corporate America in favor of the multiple employment opportunities available in frum workplaces these days. A lower but adequate salary is a small price to pay.
To paraphrase the article, please consult your rav before embarking on a career path in a secular environment that entails constant compromises in both halachah and hashkafah.
Meeting Them Where They’re At [Inbox / 915]
With respect to Rabbi Adlerstein for all the good he is doing, I take offense at the judgment implied when discussing the early days of kiruv. I quote: “Some very sincere individuals came to believe that everything is permissible for kiruv,” and further down, “while other organizations embrace coed events as part of an ideology.”
I’ve been a baal teshuvah for three decades. My husband learns every spare minute, my son is in yeshivah, my son-in-law is in an (outreach) kollel, and I myself have been working almost two decades in kiruv. But I would never, never have left my secular life to go hear a bearded rabbi giving a shiur or a choshuve rebbetzin bringing in women for a shiur or challah bake or even a women’s-only Arachim seminar.
I only went to that first program at Aish L.A. as I knew it was mixed, and I would have a social life. I believed in G-d, but I wasn’t observant, and I wasn’t looking to change my life. It was an interactive discussion group with men and women, and the rabbi hosting it gave over 15 minutes of Torah at the end based on whatever life dilemma we were discussing. Years later, I went on to organize that same program in Aish London and Aish New York, and there are many frum men and women today who started out over there. That doesn’t mean it’s a high percentage. It’s definitely front-line kiruv rather than second-level kiruv. But there are many, like me, who wouldn’t have gone to a women’s-only event. It seemed too “different.”
I moved on to Torah classes and meals at the rabbi’s house (thanks, Rabbi Braverman!), still mixed. Finally, my current boss, Mr. Richard Horowitz, convinced me to go to Eyaht in Kiryat Sanz, and from there, I moved on to a mainstream FFB kollel community.
While I may not agree with full bars at events, etc., we have to have our pulse on the kids like me who wouldn’t otherwise have an interest in becoming bnei Torah. And the generation today is so different.
As long as the kiruv professionals ask their sh’eilos — Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, Rosh Yeshivah of Aish haTorah, is a genius, especially when it comes to kiruv halachos — we are all in Hashem’s army.
Unwarranted Defense [Text Messages / Issue 915]
Eytan Kobre’s article on his response to a disgruntled reader regarding his recent column on the New York Times left me wondering.
While I most certainly agree that we shouldn’t allow our partisanship to get in the way of acknowledging good journalism, I wonder just how far we ought to go to seek out these redeeming factors. Is it really necessary to dedicate an entire two-paged column in a frum magazine detailing how the New York Times is “not that bad”?
Mr. Kobre argues that he likes to take a “segregationist approach to journalism.” While it’s perfectly fine that he chooses to continue to read a newspaper such as the New York Times, it’s imperative that he understand that many people would never read as much as a headline. And it has nothing to do with being triggered like a fragile snowflake college student. One good article does not redeem decades of barely concealed anti-Semitism.
Mr. Kobre ends his article by cautioning against the dangers of partisanship and how it can cause one to “stray from reason and sound moral guidance.” Surely as Jews we must never forget that our moral compass is the Torah and that neither political party is perfect and worthy of our unyielding support and loyalty. But it should come as no surprise that frum Jews have chosen the Republican Party as their party of choice at the moment. The Republican Party has aligned itself with law and order, lower taxes, parental rights, the pro-Israel movement, secure borders, and traditional moral values. On the other hand, the Democrat party is preoccupied pushing an ever increasingly morally corrupt agenda on the people of this country. Never mind their troubling silence as the anti-Israel sentiment is becoming more established as a legitimate part of the Democrat party agenda. Yes, remaining balanced and keeping an open mind is important. But our values ought not to be sacrificed in the process.
Esther Goldy Breier
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 917)
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