“Kallah teachers, mentors and the like need to know their place and when and where to insert themselves — and if it’s ever appropriate to leave the parents out completely”
Right Messages, Right Tone [The Forum / Issue 922]
As Tishah B’Av ebbs away and I reflect on my thoughts of the day, I feel very grateful to Mishpacha for the meaningful, insightful and inspiring Tishah B’Av-related articles in the magazine this past week.
I organized a Leil Tishah B’av program for teenage girls in our community of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and while I am an experienced and enthusiastic (I like to think) teacher and was not nervous to actually speak to the group, I felt quite overwhelmed for most of the week leading up to it. My responsibility and opportunity to relay the “right” messages, with the “right” tone and the “right” takeaways for the day, was a bit daunting.
My Shabbos morning reading left me feeling so much calmer as I read through and internalized one piece after another in The Forum section, which helped me gain insight and practical messages both on a personal level, and also to add to my half-prepared shiur for later that day.
While I truly gained from each article, I’d like to specifically thank Rav Leuchter whose thoughts on clarity and finding personal meaning in mitzvos was the core of the talk, Yeshaya Krausz who helped me “shift gears,” as he writes, as to the general approach of individuality and being more open and honest, and Mrs. Sarah Chana Radcliffe of Family First, who helped me wrap up the shiur by encouraging the girls to spend some time processing their experience and feelings before another Tishah B’Av leaves us.
Thank you on behalf of the 50+ girls in attendance who gained and grew, in your zechus.
Life-Changing Work [Perspective / Issue 922]
Kudos to Rabbi Meir Goldberg for his passionate description of the life-changing work being done by yeshivah and Bais Yaakov-trained men and women like him and his Olami-affiliated Meor colleagues to inspire young Jews of all backgrounds.
While we echo his plea for more chashuve avreichim to join our work on campuses and in communities, we also acknowledge with envy, the couples that are doing this holy work day after day, and those who are just joining our ranks as we speak.
This summer alone, we are happy to be welcoming families to jobs in Austin, Baltimore, Detroit, Highland Park, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Orlando, and Tampa. They — and the dozens of families already in the field — are heroes and their coming years promise to be filled with those very life-changing zechuyos that Rabbi Goldberg described.
Rabbi Gidon Shoshan
Deputy Regional Director of Olami, North America and the UK
Time to Unionize? [Inbox / Issue 921]
I am neither a teacher, nor a child or parent of teachers, so I’m reading the Inbox letters regarding the sustainability of the current teacher employment system as an observer.
However, last week a woman wrote that her terms of employment in a public school were regulated and protected by a union, which made teaching manageable for her vis-à-vis supporting her family. This led me to wonder: Has anyone thought of or tried to create a teachers’ union for private school (yeshivah) teachers?
While I know most employers don’t love unions, perhaps a union would protect and enable our most talented resources to continue serving our communities. An across-the-board standard of (timely) salaries, raises, benefits, noncompete rules, and all other conditions facilitating teachers’ financial stability might best be met in this way; a legal entity to back them when mistreated might allow teachers the emotional safety to give their all in the classroom.
With never-ending thanks to the people who do a job I am in awe of,
Don’t Put Ben Down [The Beat / Issue 921]
The recent item in Gedalia Guttentag’s “The Beat” featuring an unflattering cartoon of Ben Shapiro had me very upset. A strong, frum Jew who is unapologetically wearing his yarmulke and standing up for his beliefs should not be put down (especially during the Three Weeks).
If you ever took time to listen to Ben Shapiro speak about his Yiddishkeit (for example, in the recent “Meaningful People” podcast), Ben is very clear that he is not a rabbi or daas Torah and should not be consulted as so.
Please don’t distort reality to fit your views or put down an empowered Yid who cares deeply for Klal Yisrael.
Chana Wallach, Boston, MA
Critical Appeal [The Beat / Issue 921]
I found Gedalia Guttentag’s characterization of some of the frum world’s alignment with conservative principles, and identification with right wing personalities, to be particularly offensive.
I absolutely do not dispute the notion that one’s hashkafos on all important issues — including many of those that often divide Democrats and Republicans — should be shaped by daas Torah and not one’s preferred podcaster. I do, however, take strong issue with the assertion that frum people who do adopt conservative viewpoints have decided to “outsource our ability to think” and are reflexively regurgitating ideas consumed from an influential media personality (as illustrated by the inappropriate caricature of an oversized Ben Shapiro’s head on a frum man’s body).
Compelling ideas and logically sound reasoning tend to genuinely resonate with many frum people, who are trained to think critically. Could it be that the appeal of voices such as Shapiro’s in the frum world may not be traced to the manner in which they adeptly instruct their followers what to think? Perhaps it is more a reflection of the convincing nature of the arguments that they present regarding such issues as tax policy, gun ownership rights, and the modern-day culture wars.
Mr. Guttentag has a fair point to make regarding the role of daas Torah in our lives. He could do so without insulting people’s intelligence.
My Birthday Solution [Shul with a View / Issue 921]
I was very moved by Rabbi Eisenman’s touching story describing how deprived he felt during his childhood because of his summer birthday, and how one year his mother orchestrated a birthday celebration for him.
As a Pre-1A teacher, my heart also went out to the girls in my class who had summer birthdays, and I found what seems to be an easy, yet wonderful solution. For any girl whose birthday falls out in summer, we celebrate her half-birthday! We sing, eat, give brachos — everything we normally do for a school birthday celebration.
Very often, this is the one and only time these girls will have a chance to celebrate their birthdays in school with their friends, and it is a day that is truly enjoyed and cherished.
May we continue to bring smiles and happy memories to all our students,
Simi Yellen, Los Angeles, CA
A Hope and a Prayer [Lookout for Peace / On Site – Issue 921]
I want to compliment Rabbi Schwartz on his well-written and informative travelogues. I would, though, like to correct a small but important statement in the most recent piece about the Golan Heights.
In discussing ancient shuls from the period after the Churban, Rabbi Schwartz wrote that tefillah was established to replace korbanos. But in fact, the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah canonized tefillah at the beginning of Bayis Sheini, when there would still be korbanos for several hundred years.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz responds:
Well, I knew the Golan Heights was full of minefields and perhaps I stepped on one in my statement about the establishment of tefillah. True, we’re familiar with the discussions of whether our tefillos correspond to the Avos or to korbanos (or both). In addition, it seems that until the Churban Bayis Rishon, tefillah took the form of a biblical obligation asking Hashem for our individual needs, as noted by the Rambam, rather that the rabbinic formalization that was later established.
We also know that many changes were made since then. Obviously, during the period of the Beis Hamikdash, Jews weren’t davening for it to be rebuilt, nor were they offering other bakashos that are only relevant to the period of galus. And we know, just as an example, that the brachah in Shemoneh Esreh about the minim was established much later, by Shmuel Hakatan.
It is that canonization I was referring to, emphasizing that the organized prayer we have today, with a beis knesses as a central place for tefillah, really started once the Beis Hamikdash — the central place for biblically-mandated tefillah — was destroyed.
So, yes, there was organized tefillah during the era of the Second Beis Hamikdash and there was even a certain nusach habrachos from the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah. Yet it was different than what we have today and its place in the basic practices of Klal Yisrael was not centralized.
During the chaos around the Churban, there was much confusion about the correct order, the nusach, and even the number of blessings required of the general public. For a more extensive discussion on this topic, I recommend Meir Holder’s excellent work, History of the Jewish People: From Yavneh to Pumbedisa (Mesorah). The book discusses this issue extensively and brings sources.
Keep Us Off Your Map [Inbox / Issue 921]
To the letter writer who was upset at the Kichels in-towners’ map of the world, y’all need to simmer down. My town wasn’t included on the Kichel map at all, and that’s the way we like it!
We don’t want any more Yankees moving into our territory. They drive in with their 15-passenger vans and it doesn’t leave anywhere for us to hitch our horses. Then they start demanding kosher pizza past eight p.m. Ridiculous!
If they find out about our booming economy, welcoming shuls, and lack of state income tax, they might stampede down south. They can stay up north and we will enjoy our home on the range where the stars are big and bright.
A grateful Texan
Celebrate the Differences [Inbox / Issue 921]
To the out-of-towner who didn’t like the Kichels map, I was sorry to see your frustration that you expressed in your letter to the editor. You seem to be proud to be an out-of-towner, yet it seems you have “fallen prey” to the in-town mentality.
As an out-of-towner, I find differences intriguing and appreciate hearing different perspectives. Growing up in an out-of-town community has taught me a confidence in my differences among others. An in-town society has a different perspective — and that too is wonderful. As out-of-towners we respectfully listen, possibly disagree and confidently feel proud of our “out-of-town” status.
May I also add that I went to a “brand-name, high-caliber seminary, I’ve lived with many in-towners” and it has never been a goal for me to be like them. We have our mailos and so do they.
A respectfully disagreeing out-of-towner
Never Say Never [Split Loyalties / Double Take – Issue 921]
Dear Ayala (aka the Kallah teacher),
I know you mean so well and truth be told, you’re doing a great job managing this crisis you’re involved in and getting the couple the proper help and guidance they need at this time. You’re a young woman, balancing so much in your life, and the time, attention and care you’re giving to Miri is truly admirable.
However, there is something you’re missing here. Mothers and daughters have a special bond. In fact, because of that bond it was the mothers who historically taught their daughters kallah classes and gave them their pre-wedding instruction.
Today, there’s a different system in place that has become standard, and in many ways it has helped a lot. Both chassanim and kallahs are well prepared for their marriages with all the halachos and hashkafos presented to them by (hopefully) professionally trained teachers. And they now have this mentor to turn to with follow-up questions and any issues they may face.
But make no mistake: This does not remove the parents entirely from the equation. Parents are still the ones who know their children best and have the wisdom, the time, and the resources to best help them if the need would arise.
Kallah teachers, mentors and the like need to know their place and when and where to insert themselves — and if it’s ever appropriate to leave the parents out completely.
In this scenario it’s clear what you were trying to do, Ayala, and it’s understandable. However, to not even allow the mother some menuchas hanefesh that her daughter is getting the help she needs is unconscionable. All you needed to do was to coach Miri to tell her mother that she’s getting help, dealing with professionals, and that she is on the right path. That it is okay to communicate with a parent when it’s a situation as dire as this one. To keep this worried, loving mother in the dark was cruel and unnecessary.
Lastly, I want to comment on the point that you make to all your kallahs which was mentioned in the story: “I actually discourage my students from confiding in their parents about marital issues.” I know a lot of kallah teachers do this and I know that there are times when this advice has backfired. Kallahs are impressionable and are taking their teachers’ words as “halachah l’Moshe mi’Sinai.” A girl who is taught to never speak to her parents regarding marital issues thinks she can never discuss anything having to do with her newly married life with them — EVER.
But things do come up and if she has a trustworthy mother or father or sister who can be helpful, she should never think she can’t turn to them on such occasions. They may be the only ones she can trust in those instances and they can be extremely helpful. That option should never be closed off to her.
In conclusion, anyone in a mentor role has to be so careful with what s/he says and how s/he presents it. Nothing should be said with such certainty and definitiveness; everything should be presented with flexibility and fluidity to adapt to each individual circumstance that arises. We are dealing with real people here who will all encounter challenges, some bigger than others. At the end of the day, it is their family who will be in the trenches with them and will be dealing with the fallout. We need to consider them as well.
So Ayala, please keep doing all of your wonderful avodas hakodesh, but do it with nuance and with sensitivity to all sides and to all people involved.
With tremendous respect,
A fellow kallah teacher and mother of married daughters
Keep Your Mother in the Loop [Split Loyalties / Double Take – Issue 921]
Just before I got married, my kallah teacher gave me a good piece of advice: Although of course your marriage is private and certain things should not be discussed with your mother, nevertheless your mother is worried and nervous about her newly married daughter. If things are all right, be menschlich and drop her a hint that you’re okay. She’ll breathe a sigh of relief.
Thanks for the great, thought-provoking story,
Bucking the Brand [Inbox / Issue 918]
The Inbox letter entitled “No Camp is Immune” brought some beautiful messages to the forefront regarding camps and priorities. But as an “in-towner” with many likeminded in-town friends whose girls are in “normal, socially-on Bais Yaakov sleepaway camps,” I had to respond to the comment that you can’t find a kid in these camps without a Lululemon fanny pack or Aviator Nation sweater.
While I’m sure there are many girls who fit these criteria, there are plenty who don’t. I sent my three girls to three different camps and none of them asked for any brand-name anything. And no, I don’t think they are desperately wanting them either. They are well dressed and put together, with their priorities in the right place, baruch Hashem. They have friends who are just like them as well.
I’m putting this out there to let parents know, especially out-of-town parents like yourself, that “in-towners” are not necessarily as stuck on brand names as your letter suggests. Don’t be afraid to challenge your daughter when she says, “Everyone in camp has a Lululemon fanny pack,” because it really may not be “everyone.” And FYI you can find the cutest, stylish fanny packs on Amazon for a fraction of the price!
Adena Weberman, Woodmere, NY
Note: Last week’s feature “Wandering Jews” should have included the following clarification: The full story of Rabbi Farhi’s escape has been published in the book Escape from Syria (Menucha Publishers, 2020), by Shira Yehudit Djalilmand. We regret the omission.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 923)
Oops! We could not locate your form.