“I really hope one day that I can vanquish the dragon of my following sports. But I am so thankful this column was printed”
Just a Little Three-Day Delay [The Great 2022 Flying Circus / Issue 918]
I read with interest your article about the increase in airline cancellations and delays.
Three weeks ago, I was in New Orleans for work with a planned return flight to New York for Thursday evening. Upon arrival at the car rental return, four hours before the planned take-off, I was notified that the flight was canceled. Despite best efforts to secure another flight that evening, even with a stopover flying through the night, nothing was available.
I booked a Friday late morning flight and, upon waking up at 4:45 in the morning, I learned that it was canceled. The only flight out that would arrive before Shabbos had one available seat. I booked that flight, which gave me a four -hour cushion to land before Shabbos — not ideal.
Off to the airport, through security, and on the phone for work. I checked with the scheduling board 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time and the flight was delayed by at least two hours. At this point, after speaking with my rav and wife, I would spend Shabbos in Metairie, Louisiana, without any clean clothes, place to stay, food, or family.
Baruch Hashem, earlier in the week, I had met Rabbi Nemes, the Chabad shaliach. Now, within a few seconds of my explaining my predicament, he graciously invited me to stay for Shabbos. Off to buy some clothes for Shabbos and, notwithstanding the lack of a suit, hat, shoes and some other items, I had a very nice and enjoyable Shabbos.
My return flight was Sunday at 7 a.m. and, not wanting to risk sleeping through my alarm clock or being unable to secure an Uber at 4 a.m., I went to the airport at 1 a.m. Motzaei Shabbos. At 4 a.m. I walked half-asleep to the counter for the boarding pass and learned that, no surprise, the flight was canceled.
While I put on tefillin in the airport, a man excitedly told me that he really liked the camera on my head. I am not sure why I would be wearing a camera on my head, but I let it be. My now fourth flight in the afternoon was an hour delayed but thankfully took off and, after a traffic-ridden ride home, I arrived home a bit less than 72 hours after my anticipated return.
Although I’d been stranded in Louisiana, I discovered distant family eager to help those in need.
Clifton, New Jersey
Do We Live Our Values? [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 918]
Thank you very much for your professional, high-caliber magazine. As usual, Yisroel Besser’s most recent offering was excellent and thought-provoking. One point niggled at me, though. Reflecting on the scene he described at Wells-Fargo, I couldn’t help but wonder about it.
Yes, sure, we all want to be a part of the celebrations, and we leave feeling inspired. We go to the Siyum HaShas and look at the misayemim and maggidei shiur with awe, and no small amount of kinas sofrim. Our Bais Yaakov schools are doing a great job cheering for Team Kollel.
But unfortunately, on an institutional level, it’s hard to see this reverence play out.
When was the last time a school said to parents of applicants, “A father who’s still in kollel or klei kodesh? We’re really at capacity, but we’ll make room for you!”
When was the last time a girl in shidduchim was told, “Wow. Your father is in chinuch or kollel? And you want a learning boy as well? Get ready for a barrage of résumés — that’s really choshuve!”
These examples are laughable fantasies. Yet they reflect the daily-living experience of families with money.
It’s hard to “blame” schools for wanting or needing financial help from their parent body. But it’s also hard to hear a beautiful cheder boy sing “toiv li, toiv li, Toras picha, mei’alfei zahav vachesef” and hope that against all odds, he’ll really carry that idealism into his life.
It’s also understandable that a young man with a future in Torah would look for a family that could keep his existence worry-free while he learns. But it’s hard to understand what will happen to his own daughters when they’re in shidduchim. (How many generations can Bubby and Zeidy support?) Suddenly, the system doesn’t look so pretty anymore.
Besser wrote that the Torah world is triumphant, grateful, and proud. I believe that, but I also think that in today’s world, they are courageous mavericks of unfathomable inner strength. The mesirus nefesh is much deeper than money when, indeed, a modest bank account seems unable to open doors of institutions and shidduchim.
As a community, we throw our financial support at citadels of learning, empires of chesed, and vast networks of charity. We are phenomenal at putting our money where our mouth is.
Maybe now it’s time to put our values where our mouth is.
Precious Contribution [For the Record / Issue 917]
The Torah world has no awards to bestow upon Dovi Safier. But we recognize him for much more than his journalistic talents.
Along with his partner Yehuda Geberer, Dovi Safier restores to us a past that is the underpinning for the Torah lives we have chosen to live.
I personally thank him for this precious contribution. I am sure that I am also expressing the appreciation of the Torah community.
Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchok Perr
Incredible Support [Who by Fire / Issue 917]
Your article published about the tragic fire in Buenos Aires, Argentina, struck a tragic chord. We know the Chabbaz family very well and we can confirm that everything that was written about them is 100 percent true. A warm and simple family, always happy, true ovdei Hashem, pure and special neshamos. Yehi zichram baruch.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank and recognize the incredible work of Chai Lifeline. From the minute we contacted Mrs. Safier, a volunteer of this wonderful organization, to receive some guidance, they adopted us as family, following up several times a day asking how the Chabbaz family, the school, and the kehillah were doing and making themselves available to anyone who needed help.
Several conference calls were arranged during which Rabbi Dr. Fox, director of Chai Lifeline, offered help to the school and parent body, including a question-and-answer session that was highly valued and appreciated by the kehillah. Rabbi Fox also guided the Chabbaz family’s support team during this difficult, painful time.
We thank this wonderful organization wholeheartedly for their professionalism, affection, and concern. May Hashem repay you with lots of joy, health, and nachas from your families.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Reenergize Yourself [He Empowered a Generation / Issue 917]
Besides informing us of the great accomplishments of Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, your tribute piece shared the interesting anecdote about how his rebbi, the master mechanech Rav Yitzchok Hutner ztz”l, encouraged him in his avodas hakodesh (“Ich bin mekaneh dein chelek in Olam Haba — you are a lifeguard in a sea of drowning people”).
Rabbi Stolper himself shared an even more unusual “pump” that Rav Hutner once gave him.
See the introduction to Rabbi Stolper’s translation of Pachad Yitzchok on Purim (Purim in a New Light) in which Rabbi Stolper relates how at a certain point he felt burnt out and told Rav Hutner that he was retiring.
“You have no more koach?” Rav Hutner screamed. And then he said to him, “Go to Honolulu, lie on the beach and read a good book, and then come back reenergized and get back to work!”
Far Rockaway, NY
A System Built on Volunteerism [Inbox / Issue 916]
I would like to continue the conversation about the money component in teaching, specifically in response to Rabbi Yerachmiel Kalter’s opinion that teachers’ sense of mission should override any focus on money.
I’m the husband of a teacher who is in the process of changing her career path — albeit a bit late in the game. My wife has been a successful teacher for quite a while; that’s what she always wanted and continues to want. And she has the zechus of helping educate Klal Yisrael’s next generation.
But Chazal rule that “chayecha kodmim” — and since we cannot sustain our family and finish the month with her current salary, she has to consider other options. My wife holds down two jobs, working morning and afternoon, every day of the week. And she’s still getting an entry-level salary. Even after several years of teaching, she still has to prepare at night, due to curriculum changes, and must mark hundreds of tests. The time invested versus the salary received make this less feasible as we move on in life.
That’s just one aspect of it. There are many more issues, like the fact that the schools generally pay per week instead of per day, meaning a few days each month go unpaid. And the two months of summer vacation pass with no pay. (She tried working in a day camp, but it pays less than minimum wage.)
One writer argued in a letter in issue 917, asking which other job gives you a full ten weeks off in the summer and a midwinter vacation, etc. And she really is right — for someone who can afford it. Here’s an ever better proposition: Don’t work at all! Of course it’s best for a mother to stay home with her children. But guess what? Some people need to work in order to make a living. This ten-week vacation is unpaid, and it’s something we cannot afford.
When menahelim see teaching as a holy mission and not as a source of parnassah, they perpetuate the problem. If you consider your teachers volunteers, how will you help foster change? Most people aren’t able to sacrifice their entire life for volunteering; they have a family that comes first. So we cannot base the entire teaching industry on a spirit of volunteerism.
When our school administrators finally understand that the teaching industry cannot be based on a spirit of volunteerism, and stop telling us whenever we ask for a minimal raise that it’s “hekdesh money” (yes, that’s literally what my wife was told every time!), then maybe change will come.
For us personally, we’ve effectively started the transition from the teaching world. My wife has given up one of her teaching jobs in order to be able to start something new. At this point it’s a bit late to start the necessary training for a new career, but I hope that with Hashem’s help, we will succeed.
Still, we’ll be left with very bitter feelings for all those running the chinuch world. My message to them is simple: You abandoned us. You didn’t care about us. You took advantage of us. I hope you will change this so we can keep great people in the education system.
Y. S., Brooklyn, NY
Critical Resources [They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah / Issue 916]
I greatly appreciated Chaim Shapiro’s article about frum people entering the corporate workforce, as well as the follow-up letters and the continuation in last week’s Counterpoint.
While I have had the zechus, b’chasdei Hashem, to have only worked in frum-owned companies during my years post-yeshivah/kollel, I have observed and interacted with many friends, colleagues, and associates at all levels of the corporate world. The challenges and pitfalls described cannot be underestimated, and (looking in from the outside) cannot be taken lightly and without caution.
Fortunately though, as typically whenever a new challenge rises up within our society, acheinu beis Yisrael inevitably have stepped up to the plate to create and provide resources to face those challenges head-on.
Reb Ari Wasserman’s books have already been mentioned, but no conversation about frum people in the workplace would be complete without mentioning Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky’s already classic sefer Ben Torah for Life. Another more recent addition within the same genre is Rabbi Simcha Klein’s Ben Aliyah B’olam Haparnassah. Both are practical guidebooks for the day-to-day questions that come up during the quest to balance hishtadlus and the drive for success with bitachon and our Torahdig hashkafos.
Additional extremely useful resources that are available include the Toraso B’umnaso group that helps facilitate chavrusas for balabatim within the workplace (or outside if needed). There are already over 60 companies and hundreds of balabatim all over the country who are injecting ruchniyus into their workday through this organization (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Within this same general category are many small weekly vaadim within offices that help keep the attendees on the right path with the craziness of the world swirling around them.
Another is the Doeihu program. A short, extremely practical halachah relating to the interactions between men and women in the workplace (and occasional divrei chizuk and stories) is sent via email every day. Currently available in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew, over 12,000 working people in every position and type of company throughout the world receive and read this message every day (email@example.com).
Finally, Chayeinu sends out a weekly Q&A with (the previously mentioned) Rabbi Simcha Klein discussing specific challenges that come up in the workplace, and practical, potential solutions along with hashkafic background about the issue (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I’m sure there are many others, as well. The point is that once we understand what we are up against and commit to overcome the hurdles placed in our path, Hashem helps us in our goal of being mekadesh Sheim Shamayim inside and outside the workplace.
Present the Total Picture [They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah / Issue 916]
Based on my experience counseling people in the frum community, I wanted to add a couple of comments to Chaim Shapiro’s article “They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah.”
In several instances, he suggests asking one’s rav a sh’eilah. May I point out that it’s important to consult a rav who has some sensitivity and experience in this area. Many with a yeshivah background will ask a rebbi, seminary teacher, mashgiach, or rosh yeshivah. But I’ve found that a seasoned community rav is often the better choice in opining on these matters.
Second, it is critical to present the sh’eilah with the full context about the job, including any appropriate nuance. Asking a sh’eilah of simply, “I am going on an interview (or starting a new job), can I do X?” in a vacuum is lacking.
Take the following example. Let’s say that there has been a longtime employee at the company or firm who may very well have attended the same yeshivah or Bais Yaakov that you did. It is also possible that this employee was raised and informed by a different mesorah in these inyanim. That person may have already established precedents of personal conduct in the company as a frum Jew. These might be practices within some of the gray areas of halachah that are in fact based on an acceptable mehalach. And over the years, the person has been an exemplary employee who has earned the respect of others and at the same time represents Orthodox Jews.
Then all of a sudden, the new yeshivah-mahn or seminary graduate approaches an interview or starts out on the job in that same company and asserts standards that run counter to those of frum people who have previously worked for the company. At that point, trying to explain differences within Orthodox standards and practice to someone who is non-Jewish or irreligious will not exactly resonate.
As these things go, it is always best to first speak with someone else in the field to hear how he or she may have navigated that type of workplace — and take into account that person’s guidance. And if and when you ask the sh’eilah of your rav, make sure to include important job-related context that also takes into account existing corporate precedents set by others before you.
I would add that gedarim are in fact important, as the letter writer in “My Boundary Saved Me” mentioned. As it pertains to consuming alcohol in social corporate settings, however, this is not just a matter of personal gedarim — there are some strict halachos governing that. As a simple piece of practical advice, I would recommend that if one has an official name, to use that name at work and reserve one’s more familiar Jewish name or nickname for interactions within the community. It’s a subtle way of creating some emotional distance between one’s work and personal life.
Elly D. Lasson, Ph.D.
Lunch and Learn [They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah / Issue 916]
Chaim Shapiro’s comprehensive and instructive article brought back some not-so-fond memories of my own workplace challenges that arose during my stint at a large mental health agency under secular Jewish auspices.
It was exactly 50 years ago that I began my first job as an entry-level therapist at that agency. To welcome the new staff, a main office (treifeh) wine and cheese party was held, during which the executive director welcomed us and invited us to consider the door to his office always open to our questions and concerns.
Unfamiliar with the agency culture and protocol, I mistakenly took him at his word. So the next day I sent him an interoffice memo asking if he wanted to make all new staff feel welcomed, why was there no kosher food at the party?
Shortly afterward, my immediate supervisor summoned me to her office to explain in no uncertain terms that I had violated agency protocol by communicating directly with the executive director. If I had a comment or complaint, I should have directed it to her. The executive director’s words should not have been taken so literally.
Fast-forward a couple of years. Another agency-wide party was held, which all staff were expected to attend. This time the Orthodox staff were consulted regarding a particular kosher restaurant. Was the food there sufficiently kosher for us? It was and I attended.
I did not partake of any of the kosher food, however, because treifeh food was also served. After the party, it got back to me that the organizers were baffled. “Why was Wikler not eating any of the kosher food?”
I then politely explained that if there had been no kosher food, I would not have felt welcome. In order to eat, however, I would need the entire event to be kosher.
A few years later, I had to attend a high-level main office working lunch meeting. I was pleasantly surprised to learn when I arrived that the entire lunch was being catered by an acceptably kosher restaurant. Not having been apprised of this in advance, I had brought and ate my own brown bag lunch.
When questioned later about my not having partaken of the catered lunch, I did my best to explain the issur of bassar she’nisaleim min ha’ayin.
And I felt some measure of satisfaction that, over time, I had contributed to heightening the agency’s awareness and sensitivity to the religious needs of their Orthodox staff.
Meir Wikler, D.S.W.
Your Courage Gives Me Strength [Second Thoughts / Issue 916]
I had thought there would be letters discussing Rabbi Emanuel Feldman’s supreme courage to publicly admit to thousands of people that even at his advanced age, bli ayin hara, ad 120, and even though he is a very accomplished talmid chacham and Torah writer (one of my favorites from the past few decades since he started writing for the public in various forums), he is still a sports fan and daily checks up on how his Atlanta Braves are doing. Even though he is no longer the sports addict he once was, he is still interested and involved.
Since there were no letters, I had to take the time to write one.
It is obvious to me that Rabbi Feldman wrote this piece because he knows that there are thousands of nice, frum, masmid type bnei Torah in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond who share the same struggles with their favorite sports teams. Some of us do it alone and would be ashamed if anyone else knew that we have never outgrown our childish sports passions. Some of us may admit it to a few friends, but we would never want the whole frum world to know of how much time we spend on this ultimately silly pursuit. Yet Rabbi Feldman did just that.
Since I personally know how difficult it is to uproot one’s childhood sports teams passions, I have avoided raising my children with them. Despite their many friends following sports, since they don’t see it at home, they haven’t gotten into it. So far it has worked
I really hope one day that I can vanquish the dragon of my following sports. But I am so thankful this column was printed.
Rabbi Feldman, by writing about this topic you gave me great chizuk knowing such a prominent person shares a struggle that I share. Thank you for your bold humility! (Though I do hope my Mets win the division over your Braves!)
Not nearly as bold as Rabbi Feldman to sign my name
I Couldn’t Risk It [The Kichels / Issue 916]
Though I’m sure this isn’t the intention of the Kichels column, the strip about the mother being told what she must buy for her daughter in camp almost made me cry.
The purpose, I’m sure, was to point out the irony of camp supposedly letting children spread their wings, but then they are forced to conform to all social standards. What made me almost cry was the question of why it has to be this way. Why are there these intense rules that kids must follow or they’ll be a “social pariah”?
Every year, I deliberated whether or not to go to camp. And every year I decided against it. Because I was too afraid of not fitting in, of not doing or wearing the right things. I didn’t know what was in style, what the right words to use were, what the right kind of shoes were. And so I lost out on what I’m sure would’ve been a glorious opportunity for me.
I know there’s no easy answer, and there may be no answer at all, but why do we as a society push aside anyone who is slightly different, out-of-the-box, or just a little weird? Why do we all have to fit in one cute little square, doing the same exact thing? It’s not just camp, or school, it’s our entire life. It has to stop.
To all those girls who bravely walk into camp having no clue what’s currently in style, and are enjoying every minute, I’m proud of you.
A teenager, Brooklyn, NY
Inside View of the Jung Household [Man of Action / Issue 913]
I would like to add to Dovi Safier’s piece about Rabbi Leo Jung.
My mother, Elsie Miller Neumann a”h, immigrated from Germany to New York in 1934. At some point shortly after her arrival here, she was hired to work in the Jung household.
I recall her telling us the following: The Rav and Rebbetzin were careful to have the children who were old enough to understand language cared for only by a shomer Shabbos “governess.” They employed a non-Jewish nurse for the newborn, but once the child could understand, only shomer Shabbos would do. In the kitchen, cooking was done only by shomer Shabbos help.
I also recall my mother telling us that after Pesach one year, the Rebbetzin said she really didn’t want to be “bothered” to return the chometz dishes to the cabinets; instead they would leave the Pesach dishes to be used all year round, and next year buy new Pesach dishes. In reality, of course, it was an honorable way of providing kosher dishes to a refugee family.
Nechami Became My Role Model [Light Years Away]
As a single girl reading “Light Years Away,” I was definitely not discouraged from marrying a talmid chacham.
Having come home from seminary four years ago, I am no longer starry-eyed when thinking of taking care of all the kids and the house myself while my husband learns. And yet I still want to do it, because I know logically that “talmud Torah k’neged kulam.” However, knowing myself, I would have felt guilty every time I was in a bad mood when my husband wasn’t home and I could’ve used his help. I would’ve thought to myself, “The seminary teachers told us that you should be happy to do anything to support learning, because it is the best thing in the world. What is wrong with me that I am upset?”
Once I read Light Years Away, that changed. I realized that it is not a lack of chashivus haTorah to be tired and overwhelmed and wish there were another pair of hands around. Instead of turning me off, it encouraged me that I can do it.
Toward the end of the story, I was going out with a very serious ben Torah. When I shared some concerns with my mother, she told me, “You will be like Nechami in the story.” That got me very excited. I baruch Hashem got engaged shortly after the story ended, and I want to thank Ruti Kepler for the part she played in my shidduch.
A Grateful Kallah
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 919)
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