"One thing must be made absolutely clear. In this crisis, there is no 'Them.' It is only “Us' "
Not “Them,” but Us [Inbox / Issue 919]
I have been watching with interest the exchange over morah salaries. Do morahs and rebbeim deserve a living wage? Yes. Are we losing our best and brightest from the chinuch field? Absolutely.
Schools in New York are already feeling the pinch of the morah shortage, as fewer and fewer seminary girls are choosing to enter the teaching field. In some circles, learning boys are discouraged from dating girls who are teachers, because of their low earning potential.
This problem is not only a morah issue. More men, as well, are entering business fields where they can obtain lucrative positions without needing a college degree. A prominent boys’ school menahel noted that where ten years ago he would get 40 résumés for a position, he now gets two.
Yet one thing must be made absolutely clear. In this crisis, there is no “Them.” It is only “Us.”
We cannot (as some in these pages have done) place the blame on the menahelim, or on the board members, or on the “system.” Our schools are not spending money frivolously or refusing to mount fundraising campaigns. We must acknowledge that if we are to raise the salaries of morahs and rebbeim, that money needs to come from somewhere.
Who will be the ones bearing the burden of the extra funds needed? Will it be the parents — many of whom can barely afford the tuition payments they already owe?
This is not a morah problem, or a rebbi problem. It’s not about idealism, or making ends meet, or summer vacation. This is a Klal Yisrael problem, and we turn to our manhigim for guidance: How can we best direct the vast resources of the klal to ensure that our children and grandchildren receive the crucial chinuch that we have come to take for granted — before it’s too late?
Take Another Look [Open Mic / Issue 919]
I hear your pain and frustration with the shidduch process. However, I’m also a little baffled, as there are plenty of good girls out there who are also “diamonds in the rough,” as you would say, who I’m sure would be willing to meet you. I’m wondering if you yourself are looking for a certain image as well, and that’s why you’re getting so many rejections. Perhaps you should broaden your own search.
Hidden Alienators [Guestlines / Issue 919]
I realize that in Dr. Wikler’s brief allotted space it was not possible to include all aspects of parental alienation.
In one of the examples, he describes a situation that is overt abuse — the alienated parent can see and hear that someone is damaging their character in the eyes of their children.
But what about covert abuse? This happens when sly, manipulative tactics are employed, and neither the targeted parent nor the children see any harm being done, and therefore neither the alienated parent nor the child has the language to comprehend or explain why and how the cutoff happened.
Moreover, it is not always a parent who is the alienator. It could be a relative or any member of the community — usually a person in a position of power.
This is often done by creating the appearance of love and/or respect toward the targeted parent via gifts, money, or compliments. Once trust is established, the abuser has full control over the target’s emotions and safety. By removing themselves, either by cutting themselves off or turning cold, they instantly traumatize the targeted parent, who has now lost a prime source of emotional sustenance. To the world, no shots were fired, no money stolen, and no hard words were exchanged. Yet the targeted parent is in a position of shock and upheaval that will further destroy their reputation, while their children and their community will not see a reason for the unreasonable behavior: Nothing “happened” in their eyes.
This is the cruelest type of alienation, as it leaves an innocent person looking unstable while they remain unsupported, as no one understands them. Studies have shown that this chain of behavior is often employed to break someone to gain access to assets, inheritance, or to silence someone that may know a family secret.
For those experiencing alienation, Broken Ties is a religious support group with members from around the world, offering both local and Zoom meetings. A website with a huge amount of information on alienation is available at www.brokenties.org.
Two Beacons [The Light Still Shines / Issue 919]
I just read the beautiful article on Rav Shneur Kotler ztz”l and the Chicago Kollel. You captured the gadlus of Rav Shneur and highlighted his lasting legacy and his tremendous part in the explosive growth of Torah all over the US.
Permit me to comment on the quote of the Beis Shmuel in the opening of the article, that the name Shneur means two lights, and was given to someone whom both of his grandfathers were called Meir. This explanation is also mentioned by the Maharshal in Yam shel Shlomo (Gittin perek 4) with a slight modification: There, the two names were Meir and Uri. Also, the Maharshal doesn’t say that this is the source of the name, rather that the name was used to resolve the problem of the two names. However, there are others of the opinion that the source of the name Shneur is from the Spanish title “Señor,” similar to “Mister” in English.
I also would like to point out a minor error toward the end, where Rav Shneur’s children are listed. Current BMG Rosh Yeshivah Rav Malkiel Kotler is actually the eldest of the five sons — Meir a”h was about two years younger. For some reason, there is a well-known myth that had Rav Meir been zocheh to arichus yamim, he would have been appointed rosh yeshivah, not Rav Malkiel. This is untrue, as Rav Malkiel is actually older.
Surviving Sisters [The Light Still Shines / Issue 919]
The tribute to Rabbi Shneur Kotler ztz”l on his 40th yahrtzeit was layered beautifully within the context of the Chicago Community Kollel’s pioneering concept and continuous success.
One point of correction: While the article states that Rebbetzin Rischel Kotler’s entire family was murdered in Kovno, Rebbetzin Rochel Sarna and Rebbetzin Shulamis Volpe were both sisters of Rebbetzin Rischel Kotler and they both survived the war.
Wait, Where You From? [The Kichels / Issue 919]
I hooted with laughter at the Kichels’ depiction of the Frum Former New Yorker’s View of the World, especially the “Detroit/Denver” part. In the 14 years I’ve lived in Denver, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard one of the following:
“My aunt/cousin/friend lives there. Really, you don’t know her?” (Turns out, she lives in Detroit.)
“So, how’s Detroit?” (Probably fine, I wouldn’t know.)
“Denver… is that near Detroit?” (Spoiler alert: It’s not.)
My only question is, who’s the insider who told you that this goes on? Do you have a Denver connection? (Or maybe Detroit? It’s the same thing, right?)
Willing Sacrifice [Screenshot / Issue 919]
Shoshana Friedman’s Screenshot, in which she describes the syndrome of insulated but ambitious writers who might include in their articles contextually inappropriate words, got me thinking of a similar challenge in this “intentionally insulated” community.
All writers, by profession or hobby, know that to read great writing is to write great reading. Mrs. Friedman herself talks about how the editors “exchange articles or stories… and… try to figure out the mechanics of really good journalism.” And while Mishpacha regularly features superb writing in style and content, there’s no denying that the insularity of its staff, desired as that may be by its readership, necessarily limits their exposure to great reading. It’s a sacrifice the editors and readership are readily prepared to make.
To that end, I’d like to comment on Yonoson Rosenblum’s piece a few weeks back, in which he shared his surprise at meeting a chassidishe bochur who reads Mr. Rosenblum’s column.
In the protected universe the chassidim have created for themselves, writers of Mr. Rosenblum’s caliber are a well-desired commodity. It’s the very refined nature of Mishpacha’s content that enables us to take it into our homes, but there are many of us who crave and appreciate the kind of presentation typically found “out there,” in the sort of content we would not expose ourselves to. Mr. Rosenblum’s use of the English language is magnificent, and his writing is a sheer pleasure to ingest for its medium alone, to say nothing of the message.
Readers like myself are grateful.
Sorry, I Don’t Shake Hands [Working It Out / 918]
I was disappointed to see Rifky Grossman’s suggestion that it’s a good idea to come with your hands full so you can do a “hand shuffle” to avoid shaking hands with the opposite gender in a business situation.
First, in a post-pandemic world, most people won’t even think twice if you don’t want to shake their hand, no shuffle necessary. Second, as Chaim Shapiro pointed out in his article “They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah” (Issue 916), it’s important to ask your rav for a psak on handshaking, as it’s not necessarily a one size fits all psak.
Even with these considerations, I would still encourage those entering the corporate world (both men and women) to be honest and straightforward about why they’re not shaking hands. Though it may be uncomfortable, simply saying, “Sorry, I don’t shake hands with men/women for religious reasons, but it’s a pleasure to meet you,” will help you immensely in the long run. (I have found practicing this line in front of a mirror to be very helpful.)
Once you say this, it will automatically define you as “different” in the other person’s eyes. Many of the cultural issues that were brought up in both articles are made easier when the people around you know you are a religious person who is committed to your values. You can try to do this subliminally by acting as a ben/bas Torah should (which you should be doing anyway), and hope your coworkers pick up on it, or you can just state it outright at the very outset with a statement like not shaking hands. In more than ten years of working in corporate America, I have found the latter to be quite effective, and has saved me from several potentially uncomfortable situations.
A few years ago, my male coworker got married and all the team members were expected to go to the wedding reception. After consulting with my rav, we determined it was best that I go for a very short period of time, wish mazel tov, and leave. When the groom walked in, he proceeded to give each one of my colleagues a quick congratulatory hug, but just gave a little wave when he got to me. Imagine if I had “done the shuffle” instead of telling him when I first met him that I wouldn’t shake his hand!
On another occasion, my team was going out for drinks, and there was a big push for the whole team come.
I went over to my manager and said, “I just want to tell you, I don’t drink, so I’m not going to come.”
He said, “Okay, so don’t come, it’s no big deal. Just like you don’t shake hands, you don’t drink — I get it.”
Being honest and straightforward (while being smart and polite) about your religious restrictions will only help you succeed spiritually in the long term.
Secret to His Success [He Empowered a Generation — Issue 917]
Mishpacha’s recent article on Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, founder of NCSY, written by his grandson, Dovid Stolper, paints a vivid picture of what the American youth were like in those years and the despair that was in the air. It describes how Rabbi Stolper went against the tide and created a teshuvah movement that inspired thousands.
While Rabbi Stolper saw the essence of every Yiddishe neshamah and ignited their passion to live a life dedicated to Torah and mitzvos, the secret behind the success of NCSY can be attributed to another person — Rabbi Stolper’s wife, Rebbetzin Elaine (Chaya) Stolper, who passed away last week.
She supported Rabbi Stolper during the years that he was creating NCSY. She was the mother of NCSY, inviting NCSYers for Shabbos meals and for Yom Tov. No one can forget Purim by the Stolpers, where NCSYers, Chaim Berliners, and just about anyone would sing together around the table.
The Stolper home was an open house where everyone felt comfortable and accepted — it didn’t make a difference if you had a long ponytail or tattoos. Rabbi Stolper would sometimes be away from home for six weekends in a row, flying around the country to lead NCSY events. It seems that six weeks was the limit that Rabbi Stolper could bear to be away from his wife. And so it was. Rebbetzin Stolper joined her husband in Shamayim a mere six weeks after his passing. They were partners in This World and they continue to be partners in the Next.
May we all learn from Rabbi Pinchas Stolper and his wife, Elaine, who, together as a team, succeeded in transforming the lives of so many to see the beauty of Hashem.
A friend of the Stolper Family
My Ruined Summer [Design Misaligned / Double Take — Issue 917]
I could not help but nod in agreement with the letters written in regarding the Double Take camp story. I too was an out-of-towner who traveled to the Catskills to spend my summer in camp as a young teenager.
I’ll never forget hearing my name over the loudspeaker in the first week of camp, that I was wanted in the director’s bungalow. I was wearing a longer length dress that day (this was pre-“midi fashion” days). I got told off by her in a way I’ll never forget.
The director asked me sarcastically, “Do you think you’re going to a wedding tonight? Or would you like to sweep the dining room floors with your dress?”
This was enough to ruin my summer as a timid 12-year-old. Camp directors and mechanchos, look out for the feelings of your campers, especially us out-of-towners, who feel so far from home and spend so much time and money to be able to enjoy summer with the “in-towners.” It’s been 25 years since this happened, but it’s still a big part of my camp association memories.
Trust a Gracious “No” [Party Pooper / Double Take — Issue 915]
Thinking about the Double Take story with the downgraded/upgraded sheva brachos (you could look at it both ways) I’m seeing two fundamental issues at play.
- Our society has placed an extremely heavy burden of demands and expectations on the average frum homemaker.
- The average frum homemaker places a heavy burden of demands and expectations on herself.
We women carry responsibilities on so many levels, often to several generations of family members, as well as work and communal obligations. Physical and financial limitations are real and there are times when no amount of wishful thinking can magic-up more resources. Yes, there is always room to stretch, but there does come a point where someone has done all the stretching that she can. When a woman says “no,” one would expect those near and dear to her — those same people she has put herself out for countless times in the past — to trust and respect that “no” as coming from a genuine place rather than a lack of will or gratitude.
Putting aside the various ways in which this particular Double Take scenario could have been handled more effectively, how about if the mother in the story had responded, “Wow! If you are saying no, then you must be really maxed-out, because I know that you would if you could.” With that kind of validation in place, perhaps the story would have worked itself out very differently.
I believe that if we could learn when to say “no” and how to accept a “no” graciously from each other, then we would all feel more supported and strengthened in our myriad non-negotiable responsibilities.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 920)
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