Inbox: Issue 922| August 2, 2022
“If our mosdos insist on creating rules that do not acknowledge the reality of today’s challenges, they cannot expect the average parent to be truthful”
Fighting for What? [The IDF Doesn’t Want Chareidim / Issue 921]
When I lived in Eretz Yisrael more than 60 years ago, one of the secular newspapers published an article saying that the best soldiers in the Israeli army were those who went to mamlachti dati [state religious] schools. Those boys, the article acknowledged, felt they were fighting a milchemes mitzvah and so they fought with heart and soul.
Contrast that to today, when the roshei yeshivah of the “chareidi-leumi” and hesder yeshivos are forbidding their talmidim from donating to national blood drives because the forms that must be filled out prior to donation switched the words “Father” and “Mother” to “Parent One” and “Parent Two”; are warning that if the army introduces milchigs to their meal program, all IDF kitchens and dining rooms will be considered treif; and prohibiting service in mixed gender units. So the Israeli army is now being run by officers who have no idea what a milchemes mitzvah is and some don’t even know what a mitzvah is at all. Now, at this time of year, we have another reason to be crying.
That Mystifying Map [Inbox / Issue 921]
This is to “Annoyed Out-of-Towner” in last week’s Inbox who was offended that “out-of-town” communities like Chicago were displayed as being on some distant planet. As someone who has grown up out-of-town, lived in-town for a number of years and now is living out-of-town, I felt the Kichels’ “Frum Former New Yorker’s View of the World” (Issue 919) was right on target.
I can’t speak for the Kichels, but it certainly wasn’t meant as an insult to place out-of-town communities in faraway places. It’s a common view seen by New Yorkers that never learned world, or even US, geography. I grew up in Philly. How many times did I have people ask me if I know someone from Pittsburg or Scranton? In my mind, I laughed. At least the person got credit for knowing they’re all in Pennsylvania. Or the time I mentioned I was going to Boston, and the person asked if that is near Baltimore. Again, they got credit that both cities are equidistant from New York. Nu, so one is north and the other is south.
As time goes on and the Jewish community spreads out, I think people are getting better at identifying those mystifying, outlying areas. I recently met a New Yorker who never lived out-of-town, but identified both the city I grew up in and my present location by the local yeshivah. Still, please take Kichels as meant to be, not an insult to the out-of-towner, but as a little jab to the limited knowledge regarding the in-towner.
Your fellow out-of-towner,
No One Offended You [Inbox / Issue 921]
I was amused to read the letter by an annoyed out-of-towner who was offended that her out-of-town community was placed next to the North Pole in the Kichels’ map. Can we learn not to take things so seriously? I myself am an out-of-towner in a city that was not placed next to the North Pole — it was actually not mentioned at all! Do I now feel like I don’t exist? No. I found myself laughing at the depiction of a “Frum Former New Yorker’s View of the World” because (fact!) most New Yorkers actually do view their city as the center of the world! I didn’t notice anything in the comic hinting that only in-towners are worthy frum Jews. In fact, the opposite is true — the Kichels very often depicts in-towners as running after fashions irrationally and other ridiculous frum behaviors present in many in-town communities. (I don’t see any letters to the editor from in-towners complaining about that.) Let’s relax and start finding the funny in the funny without taking things too personally.
Off the Map
Where’s Cleveland? [Inbox / Issue 921]
Regarding “Annoyed Out-of-Towner”: Having lived in an out-of-town (though becoming more in-town every day) community our whole lives, we thought the original Kichels was one of the funniest ones we have ever read. Annoyed Out-of-Towner is 100 percent correct in that out-of-town is a wonderful place to live and has many advantages. That doesn’t contradict what the original comic was saying: Poor New York and Lakewooders truly believe that out-of-town is “somewhere out there.” The depictions and locations (Cleveland being near the North Pole) were spot-on and gave us a great laugh.
Forced to Fib [Take a Stand / Issue 921]
Last week’s Take a Stand was the first article I sat down to read, so excited was I that someone is finally opening the conversation about “gentle lying.” It was very disappointing, however, to see the answers skirting the real issue.
It is perhaps an insult to your readership to think that an idea mentioned in the Aseres Hadibros needs endorsement. We all know lying is wrong, both written and verbally, and if this question is being posed to choshuve rabbanim in a public forum it is because you know there is an underlying hot-button topic that needs to be discussed. How about the problem of lying on school forms, which has become such a widespread phenomenon? How come we are not asking ourselves why that is so?
Nobody wants to lie. Not a single parent is out to teach their kids dishonesty and for the most part, parents choose schools for their kids that match their hashkafah and one that has a parent body most similar to themselves. Most people also want to conform and fit in — that’s human nature. What has happened, however, and what is not being addressed, is that many schools are ignoring the reality, so that apparently none of their parents have smartphones, and none of their students do this or that for midwinter vacation, and all of their students adhere to the most exalted standard of tzniyus, both inside and outside of school. It must be so, since they all signed papers and Yidden don’t lie.
The responsibility of truth lies at least partly on the school. If our mosdos insist on creating rules that do not acknowledge the reality of today’s challenges, they cannot expect the average parent to be truthful.
If schools cannot be honest about the level of their parent and student bodies, and if they insist on creating unrealistic rules, they cannot expect any signature to be worth the paper it’s written on.
The New Lying Normal [Take a Stand / Issue 921]
Thank you for the Take a Stand column last week on the issue of false statements. It was nice to see all three mechanchim taking a definite and unequivocal stand.
There is, unfortunately, another area I believe is worth highlighting: the rampant falsifying of documents relating to vaccines and tests. Somehow the desire to travel has justified and overridden the basic principle of emes, not to mention the potential to create severe chillul Hashem.
It has become so commonplace and acceptable in our communities that while I was standing in line in a public pharmacy, waiting to take a COVID test before traveling, someone loudly asked me in full earshot of everyone else in the long line, “Why don’t you just make a PDF?” — as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
Whether or not to get vaccinated/tested is a personal choice. Living a life of emes shouldn’t be.
He Motivated Us [For Love of the Land / Issue 921]
As soon as I spotted the name “Schaye Schonbrun,” I quickly read the article from beginning to end. My relationship with Rabbi Schonbrun goes back to my high school years in MTJ in the late 1960s, where I was zocheh to have Rabbi Schonbrun as my English teacher for four years of high school. Yes, I remember the Orange 1962 Mustang, but what I remember most from those wonderful years is that I looked forward to his class each and every day. And this is no small feat, as I was not “into English” —math and science (and Torah, of course) were my passions. Yet, the skills that I learned have helped me tremendously throughout my technical and teaching career. I credit Rabbi Schonbrun for motivating us to constantly improve our spelling and vocabulary (I still recall studying every Sunday night for the Monday spelling and vocabulary tests), to write steadily and to read.
I was zocheh to teach under both Rabbi Schonbrun and Rabbi Stanley Bronfeld — both top-notch role models for how to teach, how to reach difficult students, and especially for learning to polish our bein adam l’chaveiro.
I’d like Rabbi Schonbrun to know that I still have the From Moshe to Moshe booklet near the seforim I use daily. He might not remember, but when he gave us a copy of the “book,” we were also given a small color picture of Rav Moshe, which was displayed prominently in my parents’ home.
May Hashem grant Rabbi Schonbrun many more years of teaching in good health.
(Still an MTJ student, since 1957)
Too Complicated for a Newbie [Double Take / Issue 921]
I’m one of those privileged to be receiving your magazine each week at my door, and the first thing I look for is if there’s a Double Take in the week’s edition.
I find it fascinating to hear two different sides of a story and how each person can view the same situation so differently. But this past week’s episode between Devorah, the mother, and Ayalah, the kallah teacher, left me infuriated.
How can someone so young and inexperienced in the world of marriage take responsibility to deal with such a delicate case?
I understand she reached out to someone more experienced for an opinion, but shouldn’t such a situation be immediately directed to a rav? Do we not see how worried sick the mother was about her daughter and what a great relationship they had before she got married? How can such a fresh kallah teacher confidently encourage her student not to share anything with her parents? It would seem to me that this kallah teacher doesn’t know what it means to be a mother. And most importantly, what kind of message are we sending out to the single and soon-to-be married girls?
To the mothers of kallahs and the kallahs themselves: Please be careful whom you choose as a kallah teacher.
To the kallah teachers out there: Please realize the huge responsibility and undertaking that lies in your hands, and how young, naive and impressionable these kallahs are.
Don’t Brush Her Aside [Double Take / Issue 921]
I was aghast and vaguely nauseated by the story of the young couple in trouble, and the kallah teacher who took the reins. While it is extremely important for the kallah teacher to maintain her student’s confidence regarding specific issues, it is incredibly narcissistic, grandiose, and frankly immature to lie to the worried mother. A mother carries and births a child (or makes the decision to adopt and devote her life to this child’s well-being) and then spends every day raising, guiding, worrying, feeding, clothing, and most importantly, davening for the child’s well-being. A mother should never, ever be brushed aside.
A Shrill Shvigger (blessed with wonderful children-in-law)
No Resentments [Double Take]
I enjoy the Double Take column as much as everyone, but I think many readers are missing the point. The column isn’t intended for readers to take sides and defend the position they feel is most righteous. Instead, it’s making a powerful point in a subtle way: that it’s not about who’s right but rather that every person in an argument is right — from their perspective. When we view each other’s actions as wrong, it’s because we’re looking at their choices/behaviors/actions through our own lens rather than through theirs. In reality, everyone is right. To live a peaceful life, every person has to step out of his own world and into the other’s. When you do that, you’ll recognize and understand that the other person is coming from a valid place. Instead of reading a Double Take and choosing which side resonates with you more, let’s translate the message into our own life’s conflicts and stop living a life full of annoyance and resentment.
Our First Priority [Inbox / Issue 919]
I’ve been reading the back and forth on the discussions of morah salaries and would like to share my thoughts. My grandparents were overjoyed to come to the shores of this great country after World War II. They arrived penniless, but oh so rich with three small children. When they heard that Bais Yaakov was open and had classes for my aunt and mother, they were thrilled. Yiddishkeit would continue!
My zeide worked hard from paycheck to paycheck. When he brought home his pay, he would divide it into piles. The first pile was for tuition, and it was paid with pleasure, appreciation and full of thanks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. And then went a pile for rent and food. If there was an extra bit… the list continued.
Do we put tuition first? Is it our first priority? Are we ready to put extravagance, luxuries and vacations aside and once again set our children’s chinuch as number one?
Manipulative Heartbreak [Little Could Be More Damaging / Issue 919]
As the director of Broken Ties, I would like to share that the brief lines about Parental Alienation written by both Dr. Meir Wikler and in your Letters caused quite an uproar in our WhatsApp chat. For the most part, our members were emphasizing the difficulty in finding therapists that are knowledgeable regarding the manipulative tactics involved in alienation. More so, many felt that professionals in the mental health field were actually responsible for alienating their sons and daughters. The grief of these parents at the lack of a connection to their children was heart-wrenching. One by one, these parents are asking where to turn for guidance and support to reconnect with their children.
Please know that within our group there are many loving and devoted parents from intact homes that are beyond themselves at this turn of events. They are at a total loss as to how they lost their connection to their children. Furthermore, many are experiencing re-traumatization as they seek out help, their struggles misunderstood and blame unjustly placed on their shoulders. Their pain is huge.
Therefore, I have chosen to send this message to your publication with a request that if anyone has the name of a qualified therapist well versed in the nuances and fabrications of alienation to please contact our office. Likewise, if any of your readers are aware of a rav who has a sensitivity to alienated parents, we would be very grateful for that input as well.
(The organization can be contacted through Mishpacha)
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 922)
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