“It’s now time for the medical community to recognize that ultimately Hashem is pulling the strings”
Elevating Our Camp Experience [Grounds for Greatness / Issue 924]
Thank you for a wonderful publication!
Your recent feature article on gedolei hador spending time in summer camps evoked nostalgia and memories of a bygone era. Who can forget the iconic picture of Rav Moshe Feinstein sitting outside learning in camp in Kerhonkson, New York?
Having attended Camp Ma-Na-Vu for a few years, I can never forget the sight of Rav Tuvia Goldstein ztz”l and later Rav Dovid Kviat ztz”l sitting and learning at a picnic table under a tree. The presence of the gedolim in camp elevated the whole camping experience.
My grandfather, Rabbi Avrohom Newhouse ztz”l, pioneered the first girls camp in the US — Camp Bais Yaakov in Ferndale, New York — and many gedolim and their families summered there.
What comes to mind as well, is Zucker’s Hotel in Glen Wild, New York (and later the La Vista Hotel in South Fallsburg, New York) where many gedolim such as my other grandfather, Rav Mendel Krawiec ztz”l, spent their summers.
As all camp attendees can attest, how fortunate we all were to gain inspiration from the gedolim in a camp or vacation setting.
Thank you for the trip down memory lane!
The Real Center [Inbox / Issue 924]
I didn’t see any complaints about the Kichels map from the Israeli readers, even though Eretz Yisrael is portrayed as displaced and less prominent than Lakewood, New York, or Florida.
That’s because we Israelis know Eretz Yisrael is the real center of the world, so we are not offended and can laugh at the amusing map.
Disposable Parents [Inbox / Issue 924]
I am writing to address the letter in this past week’s Inbox, “Detaching to Heal,” which justified children who cut off ties with their parents.
Ms. Schwartz, I don’t know what prompted you to submit this letter, or what you intended to achieve by doing so. My understanding or take on this: There goes another therapist justifying or validating practically every single situation where a child decides with the input of a rav or therapist to cut ties with a parent. This type of remedy or solution should be reserved for very, very, limited situations (as in almost never).
And if a child feels the need to have boundaries implemented, why can there not be an impartial intermediary who can apprise the parent of the situation at hand and try to put things back on track? Why do we hear of case upon case of heartbroken parents who have been canceled by their children? Parents are not perfect and neither are children — but don’t you think a little bit of kibbud av v’eim should be a part of the mix and come into play?
This new genre of children who simply need to take a break is burgeoning in mageifah proportions. They have cut themselves off entirely, and if they are married with children, they are robbing their children of Bubby and Zeidy in addition.
And if you think it’s just a little break, you are sadly mistaken. It’s just easier to walk away from the problem than to try to deal effectively with it. All with the lame excuse of “I spent thousands of dollars on therapy.” Really? And what exactly have these children achieved? The right to shift the blame on the parents?
We’re living in times of disposable dishes, living on plastic credit cards, disposable marriages, and now toss the parents out as well because it’s too inconvenient for children to try to find a happy medium when they have tainehs.
What’s Our Excuse? [Outlook / Issue 924]
Yonoson Rosenblum’s poignant post-Tishah B’Av citation from the great gaon Rav Yaakov Emden’s Siddur Beis Yaakov, which links our long galus to our estrangement from Yerushalayim, moved me to read the original in full. Allow me to elaborate somewhat (in loose translation) about Part 3, Section 6 of Sulam Beis E-l, the siddur’s introduction, in which Rav Emden discusses Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim.
“It seems that residing as we do in tranquility in exile” says the Yaavetz,” we have discovered a substitute Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim, just like the real ones. That’s why all the evils have come upon us... because we continue to live in other lands peacefully and with greater honor — and for quite some time now.”
Rav Emden was referring to the Yerushalayim substitutes of his day, 18th-century Hamburg, Altona and Frankfurt, surely not to our well-known — and infinitely more frum — contemporary New York/New Jersey observant Jewish communities, none of which were then extant.
“Jews,” continues the Yaavetz, “are called nachalas Hashem, G-d’s inheritance, and Eretz Yisrael is also His nachalah. The Torah is dependent on both, G-d’s nation and G-d’s Land, and he who forsakes one forsakes the other.”
Rav Emden expresses astonishment however about “Yisrael Kedoshim” — holy Jews, who are most exacting to scrupulously observe mitzvos to the letter, in the strictest, most stringent way, and spend much effort and money to meticulously fulfill them in the finest possible manner. Why, therefore, he asks, do such wonderful Jews “debase this beloved mitzvah [living in Eretz Yisrael] and are so apathetic when it comes to fulfilling it? It is the very foundation upon which the entire Torah stands!”
Rav Emden acknowledges that it is not easy for someone to uproot himself and leave the land of his birth. He would need to travel a very long way through many lands whose languages he doesn’t know, and undergo hardships and tribulations, and — although he doesn’t say it — over many arduous months. Still, he determines, l’fum tza’ara agra, the enormous difficulty is offset by the immense reward at the end of the journey.
There aren’t that many lands that one must go through to get to Eretz Yisrael today, nor that many months of arduous travel. El Al’s nonstop takes all of 11 hours.
“Every Jew,” Rav Emden declares unequivocally, “must tenaciously resolve to reside in Eretz Yisrael.”
The gaon issues an electrifying warning: “So long as Jews — and especially the talmidei chachamim among them — do not firmly resolve [to live in] their land, their Torah is not really fulfilled [ein Torasam miskayemes b’emes]. The two (the Torah and the Land) are dependent on one another, both in learning and in doing. For there are many mitzvos that can be fulfilled only in Eretz Yisrael and are impossible to satisfy in chutz l’Aretz — outside the Land.”
There’s more, much more, and I recommend that everyone try to see the Siddur Beis Yaakov.
Dangerous Conflation [Outlook / Issue 924]
As most people tend to do, Rabbi Rosenblum has confused the aliyah issues that a Torah Jew will face with integration into Israeli society.
In fact, the exact opposite is true: the American Torah Jew is looking to stay far away from the general Israeli society, which ironically makes his decision to make aliyah that much more difficult.
Rabbi Rosenblum’s mention of the army and the resilience it creates among the general Israeli society (a doubtful claim, being that most Israelis immaturely run away from the country as soon as they finish service), into the equation of a Yid from Lakewood thinking about aliyah just highlights the dangers of integrating into Israeli society and the confusion that exists among normally smart, intellectual people.
As an American far away from the scene in Israel, it is much easier for me to see the difference between Yiddishkeit and being an Israeli — two mentalities that are worlds apart. It behooves the magazine to differentiate between the two and to convince the reader that we won’t become warmed up to secular Israeli society and then we will be one step closer to aliyah.
Brooklyn, New York
With Tears Streaming [Text Messages / Issue 924]
I should like to thank Eytan Kobre for his erudite summation of the life of the Gaon Av Beis Din of the Eidah Hachareidis, Rav Yitzchok Tovia Weisz ztz”l.
Let me share with you one small vignette of the life of Rav Tovia. At one time he was a maggid shiur at the Yeshiva Horomoh in North London, as well as being the rav of the Zeirei Agudas Yisrael Beis Hamedrash (“upstairs” at 69 Lordship Road, North London, whose previous rabbanim had included Rabbi Yaacov Teitelbaum, Rabbi Lippa Honig and Rabbi Alexander Sender Feuerstein).
On Tishah B’Av morning, Kinnos were said at a fairly fast speed, but the end made the deepest impression on me. In many batei medrashim, the last kinnah “Eli Tzion” is sung as a marching tune. Reb Tovia, however, sang the kinnah as a dirge, very slowly, with intense concentration, and with tears streaming down his face. Even this past Tishah B’Av I could still hear, in my mind, his Eli Tzion!
Let me also include the way he was mekarev a young man who had not been blessed with getting married. His attention to this person, made his life all the more bearable.
Yehi zichro baruch.
Hendon, London UK
So Moved [10 Questions / Issue 924]
I received my magazine this morning. It’s too challenging for me to wait till Shabbos to begin reading the interesting and informative content. I am just so moved by the concept of Recharge, Rabbi Dovid Fine’s initiative to send needy people on vacations.
To think that one person saw what is missing in the lives of people who are unable to allow themselves the luxury of a vacation of any kind, and then acted to fill that hole, is above and beyond the average person’s comprehension.
May Dovid Fine have continued siyata d’Shmaya in his lofty endeavors. Thank you for providing such interesting articles for my enjoyment.
Mrs. S. Rosenbaum
No Reneged Promise [Murky Waters / Double Take – Issue 924]
While the Double Take stories are fictional, very often the situations have occurred in some form or another in real life. Pools can be a contentious issue.
I once heard a story of a man who had installed a pool, and his neighbors seemed to think that it was a public service. He went to a rav, who said, “Your pool is like your living room.” It’s personal space, like one’s home.
When I tell a friend that she is welcome to come over “anytime,” we both know that I don’t mean every day. At least, by most social standards, that is understood. But Shira’s desperation led her to exploit a social nicety. She could have asked, “Are you sure that it would be okay for us to come every day in the summer?” But she didn’t.
Additionally, she omits from her narrative her request for the pool to be heated — if the heater was off, there was probably a reason — and further shows her entitlement by thinking that her neighbors “don’t seem to worry too much about money.” Just because another family has a higher standard of living doesn’t mean that they aren’t careful with finances.
She even ends off “it’s your pool and you don’t owe us anything.” Right. There was no reneged promise. There was no official understanding in place. As a pool owner, Hadassah is within her rights to reevaluate a situation and say it isn’t working. Quite frankly, letting a family use her pool for three hours, three days a week while eating the expense of heating is quite generous.
Texting Kept Things Murky [Murky Waters / Double Take – Issue 924]
The main issue of the Double Take story is about people taking advantage of generosity, but that’s not what I want to comment on. In my opinion, a crucial lesson to learn from this story is that the discomfort that resulted from a quick text message from the owner of the pool to her neighbor to set boundaries, could very likely have been minimized and even prevented with good old-fashioned, person-to-person communication.
I am fairly certain that either a phone call to address her neighbor’s concerns or even better, pulling up those blinds and opening the back door to talk face-to-face, could have saved this relationship.
I am a wife, mother, daughter and busy professional who made the very difficult but important decision to “upgrade” from a smartphone to a minimalist non-smartphone. Texting from a non-smartphone has been both a struggle but also a lesson, given the lack of ease of texting from a non-smartphone. Many times I find myself making the choice to take a few minutes to pick up the phone and talk, rather than to painfully tap out a text message one letter at a time — without the emojis to show the “emotions” of course.
My challenge has highlighted for me that nothing can take the place of eye contact, facial expressions and being able to read the reaction of the person you are communicating with. And this is true not only for neighbors, but for our family and friends as well. Technology has robbed us and our children of human communication and this Double Take story brings this issue to the forefront.
Texting Less and Communicating More
A Union Would Have Had My Back [Inbox / Issue 923]
The letter writer who wrote about considering some kind of union for frum teachers to possibly help the teacher shortage sparked my interest.
While I believe that unions have been frowned upon for halachic and hashkafic reasons (though I would love to hear more about why this is so), I think the letter writer made some good points. As an experienced, successful teacher who, like many others in my position, is now making active plans to leave the field, many of her points resonated.
While there have been numerous challenges over the years, I think the most frustrating and practical one was that there was never anyone who fully “had our backs” as teachers. Administrators and boards were able to create untenable and unreasonable situations because they controlled our salaries, and we were unable to speak up in a meaningful way about important job considerations or to advocate for livable salaries.
Had there been one person serving as my advocate — something like an ombudsman or HR person — within my school system, I would have stayed. The same is true for many of my colleagues in various schools who have already left, and many who are, like myself, in the process of leaving.
I find it interesting that there’s a similar kind of letter every few weeks trying to brainstorm solutions to the teacher shortage, but no official organization or group has weighed in on any of the ideas or offered ideas for meaningful change to help individual teachers. What a difference it would have made had some kind of national, recognized, or official organization in our community stepped up to offer support to individual teachers like me and many of my colleagues, by advocating for us and speaking up on our behalf when we couldn’t do it ourselves.
If that had happened, many of us would have decided to stay in the field.
Thanks for a great magazine.
A soon-to-be former yeshivah teacher
A Union Already Exists [Inbox / Issue 923]
The letter writer of “Time to Unionize?” wondered if a teachers’ union would help the current situation. The readers should be aware that such a union has existed in Chicago for over 50 years!
The Torah Teachers Association was founded over 50 years ago with the inspiration of Reb Herzl Kaplan ztz”l, and led for many years by Rabbi Joseph Lichtshein ztz”l. From that time until now, this “union,” working together with the concerned, compassionate, and creative leadership of the leadership of the Day Schools and the Associated Talmud Torahs, has been able to further the benefits of the teachers. These benefits include guaranteed salary increases, sick days, subsidized medical insurance, tenure, and an excellent pension plan.
This is not to say that things are perfect. There is much still to accomplish to make sure that chinuch becomes a livable and sought-after profession. However, these steps have certainly begun to make a difference.
Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, Chicago IL
So Many Reasons for a Union [Inbox / Issue 923]
I’ve been following the recent teacher chinuch employment conversation but didn’t feel I had much to add until the topic of unions came up.
My mother, who works as a teacher, recently made the transition from yeshivah to public school. Our family has seen the incredible efficiency of a teachers’ union.
When A. F. suggested the establishment of a Yeshivah Teachers’ Union, I was immediately taken aback — because I assumed one already operated. I was sure that such established mosdos like Agudath Yisrael, Torah Umesorah, or Chasdei Lev, all who have done tremendous work for the chinuch system, must have some sort of union for our teachers.
After a quick check I learned that there is no such infrastructure in the frum world. Following that, I decided to join A. F.’s call to start one.
Here are some initial thoughts for the issues our yeshivah union could tackle.
- Mekadesh Yisrael v’hazmanim: As Yidden, we all celebrate the same Yamim Tovim. So why is it that the public schools can have one unified calendar accommodating ten-plus religions, while working parents in our world can’t take off for Yeshivah Week because of massive scheduling conflicts? Establishing a somewhat standardized calendar would allow parents to plan better and not be forced to dump their kids with babysitters (a.k.a. Bubby and Zeidy) during school days off. Simultaneously, this would allow teachers to not have to work days when they want to be off with their kids and vice versa.
- Sechar l’peulaseich: A union could set universal financial standards in our school system, mainly an appropriate minimum requirement for morahs and rebbeim. An honorable base salary should be set in both girls’ and boys’ schools, with pay increase based on seniority or effectiveness.
- Ro’eh es hanolad: By offering some benefits (e.g., health insurance or the like), schools could join forces and benefit from a group rate. Additionally, offering a retirement plan for our mechanchim— either a pension or some other type of income plan for the future — would allow mechanchim to leave the field when they feel burnt out, rather than stick around for a paycheck to pay their bills.
- Derech eretz: Lastly, a union would set basic ground rules in order for an institution to be recognized as a proper yeshivah. For example, no mandatory working on Chol Hamoed or Erev Yom Tov unless additional monetary compensation is offered. Similarly, no blacklisting schools — for example, no threatening teachers if they work in other local yeshivah viewed as “competition.” Paid maternity leave would be appreciated in many schools. And equal payment for morahs working in boys’ chadarim.
These are just some ideas that could be addressed by a union. I’m sure a shared discussion could result in many more ideas and suggestions. So many of us want to help foster change. We need our major organizations and askanim to come on board in order to implement it. Our mechanchim deserve it, we deserve it, and our future doros will only gain.
M.G., Five Towns
Not Our Reality [Yiddishe Gelt / Issue 923]
I did not find the Yiddishe Gelt column about therapy to be an accurate portrayal of the challenges many of us face when to comes to the cost of therapy.
Unfortunately, good therapists are extremely hard to come by under insurance, psychiatrists even harder. Yidden have always appreciated the value of getting top medical care, so it’s something many of us will willingly pay out of pocket for.
For families going through a hard time or dealing with trauma, this can be a prohibitive cost. For our family, therapy has cost us around $850 per week for the last few months. Baruch Hashem, things are improving and we’re starting to cut back, but for a while it was an absolute necessity.
We were just told by our rav that we can pay for our therapy with maaser money. This information might be beneficial to others who are unaware of this. Of course, everyone should ask their own rav for guidance on this matter.
Name Withheld, Brooklyn
Upgraded from Guests to Family [Above the Alps / Issue 923]
Thank you for your nostalgic article about the Bermann family’s Hotel Edelweiss in St. Moritz, which brought back many happy memories for both my wife Noemi (née Smith) and me, as our families used to holiday at the Edelweiss every year for many years — Noemi’s for Pesach and mine over the December holidays.
We were bothered when our families weren’t mentioned in Yosef’s list of the regular family tables, but laughed when we both realized that this was vintage Family Bermann — Mr. and Mrs. Bermann had the ability to make every family feel that we were their special guests.
I remember once my brother fell and had to go to Dr. Gut’s clinic. Mr. Bermann took the time to visit with a gift-wrapped game and his best wishes for a quick and complete recovery. There are very few hoteliers who so readily upgrade their clients from their status as guests to becoming long-term family friends.
We wish Mr. and Mrs. Bermann and all their warm and friendly family good health, only nachas, and many simchahs in the future.
Irwin & Noemi Stern, Manchester, UK
Different Strokes [Second Dance Serial]
I enjoyed sharing with friends details regarding Dov Haller’s “Second Dance” serial over the past months. We were intrigued by the author’s depiction of midlife dilemmas at the fictional Alameda Gardens. In the last chapter (Issue 923) the newly hired Rabbi Klarberg delivers with clarity (as per his apt name!) some gentle advice.
As our JWOW! (Jewish Women of Wisdom) group of women aged 50-plus who express on Zoom and online forums believe, it’s about different strokes for different folks. There’s really no single “right” way to achieve the “perfect” retirement or bubbyhood.
We gain chizuk (not doubting) from friends. We strengthen each other, knowing that what works for one kehillah or family may not work for another. And none of us have it all figured out, and we’re okay with that!
Every fictional story needs a gentle antagonist to encourage us to think outside the box. Heshy was just that person.
In real life, it’s helpful to realize that not all societal rules — To’ameha or Leil Shishi — are musts for being the “best Bubby and Zeidy,” whether in a 50s-plus neighborhood or a regular one with mixed ages. Reduce expectations while enjoying the nachas. And find the happiness within ourselves by living in the present and not by looking over our shoulders at what the neighbors (in Lakewood, Boro Park, Boca, or even Queens!) are doing.
We invite frum women at the midlife stage to check out our website for a real-life dynamic women’s community at jewishwomenofwisdom.org
Let the People Decide [Long Covid / Issue 923]
Thank you for bringing the subject of “Long Covid” to the broader Mishpacha readership. There are tidbits in this article that may ultimately lead people toward understanding what may be going on in their bodies. However, I felt that many supporting details were left out, and a particular quote at the end of the article would have been best left unsaid.
The article listed a few personal stories that stated the patient’s symptoms, etc., but neglected to mention some key factors such as health history and/or if they were vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine and if yes, before or after they contracted Covid. These are factors that the secular media loves to ignore and when a frum magazine chooses to cover such a subject, all factors must be considered.
In addition to what was omitted, it’s the last quote from Dr. Sherman that may have been best left unsaid in regards to vaccinating and masking. At this stage, it’s pretty clear to average laymen that vaccines aren’t the answer, masking is clearly not the answer, and the virus has reached a point to where its effect is no longer life-threatening even to the “high-risk” population.
Two-plus years of people cowering in fear has done enough to destroy the physical and mental well-being of humanity. Many of our vulnerable folk have finally come around and started to interact with their families once again. Given the high esteem in which Mishpacha is held with many of these people, they will now once again shrink back and become fearful to live life outside of their homes.
Yes, we are truly indebted to the medical professionals who have risked their lives on the front lines of this disease which we knew very little about back in March 2020. It’s now time for the medical community to recognize that ultimately Hashem is pulling the strings and that we now need to focus on the humanity portion of care for the broader population. Let the people decide for themselves and with their GP on the best way to approach this virus.
May the Rofei Kol Basar bring an end to this insanity together with coming of Mashiach very soon!
M. P., Chesterfield, MO
Just One Measly Dollar [Outlook / Issue 922]
Yonoson Rosenblum is concerned that he has finally found someone to be jealous of — Dr. Jonathan Donath, the worthy gentleman who had the idea for the tzedakah site dailygiving.com. But if there is one person no one has to be jealous of, it’s the man behind this concept; in fact, he is the one who has made it so crystal clear how each and every one of is so important — and how a gain for one of us is a gain for absolutely all of us!
In fact, there are probably fewer people who are aware of how much we need each aside from Dr. Donath — because his whole concept is based on how we need each other in order to impact for good.
For many years I have felt frustrated in the area of charity. There are so many beautiful and varied types of chesed organizations — boy, is the Jewish nation creative — but as a person of very average means there is no way in the world that I could ever offer any of these organizations a really meaningful donation.
But thanks to dailygiving.com, I suddenly have become this amazing, magnanimous gvir, daily (!) contributing $10,000 to a huge variety of different tzedakahs! I give one yearly donation of $365 — a dollar a day — plus a few extra dollars for processing, and every day of the year, dailygiving.com gives a huge donation to another worthy organization — and my pathetic and measly daily dollar is what makes this possible. Just by hitching my little dollar to thousands of other one-dollar donations.
The variety and types of tzedakahs receiving donations from dailygiving.com is heartwarming in and of itself. Every single day, I get an email telling me which organization received the jackpot that day. I cannot describe the rush of joy I get each day when I see another wonderful tzedakah and know that little me is connected to the great work they do.
Happily, Rabbi Rosenblum, none of us needs to be jealous, because this is one area — as dailygiving.com makes clear — where each win belongs to all of us and that none of us can accomplish on our own.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 925)
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