“When our teachers are underpaid and, even more, underappreciated, this is a huge deterrent...we have discouraged young women from the field of education”
No Unconditional Respect [Inbox / Issue 926]
Last week’s Inbox included two letters about children who cut off ties with their parents. I feel that the first letter is unwittingly the answer to the second letter.
My heart belongs with Anonymous #1. The writer of the first letter goes to great lengths to describe her repeated and futile efforts at pleasing an irascible and severely negative mother, and how the trauma lasted — and blighted — her entire adult life.
Anonymous #2 can’t be bothered with facts in real time; she only — and vehemently — shares her theory that just by virtue of someone holding a position of prestige, his or her opinion must be believed at face value and unconditionally. Sorry, no way.
I have great respect for professionals and therapists and consult with them regularly. But I follow this caveat: If their advice sounds suspect and in every way “not right,” then yes, we should absolutely question it, reject it, refute it.
When a Bond Is Severed [Inbox / Issue 926]
We at Broken Ties, a support group for alienated parents, have been following the letters in your Inbox on children who have rejected their parents. Sadly, we hear hundreds of these stories daily. We wanted to share a little of what we have learned since our organization was formed three years ago.
Namely, there are three main reasons that cause children to walk off or reject their parents. The first is a social limitation or a struggle to make necessary adjustments in the personality of the child. This is very tragic, as the parents desperately want to connect to their child, but there are no rules to follow. Parents experience sleepless nights and worry constantly about their child and yet they cannot reach him. Sometimes, too, it is the parent that is unstable. We respect that it does happen, albeit rarely, that a child must undertake precautions to stay healthy.
The second reason, which is also rare, is when a child was actually abused by a parent. Again, we can understand that a child needs to find the proper guidance on how to protect his own physical or mental health.
The third reason, alienation, appears to be the most common cause of alienated children. With alienation, we are generally dealing with a healthy parent or parents and a well-rounded frum child as well. These parents are loving and hardworking and have sacrificed time and time again for the welfare of their child.
The child, however, was influenced to see the parent as unloving, fearsome, and possibly unstable by a third party. Children are not only family members whom we love. That love takes on a powerful connotation as the child matures and turns into a protective force toward the parent that he loves.
Alienators are people who want to destroy that love force. They may want it all for themselves or they may wish to devalue a parent so that the parent is powerless. This is often done in an attempt to take control of assets or an inheritance, or to cover up family secrets.
It is for these innocent parents and children that we work daily to find a yeshuah. Their pain is huge. Yet the child truly thinks that he was unloved because the alienator framed things to appear that way via manipulative tactics including fabricated evidence.
It’s important to note that an alienator can be anyone within the family or community and that alienated children can be found in otherwise perfectly healthy homes. It is not the failure of the parents that has turned their children away, but rather false guidance and the innocence of the trust of our young generation in their elders and mentors.
We, the directors of Broken Ties, would like to make a personal request from the community to be kind and sensitive to any alienated parents that you may know. Please listen to them and let them know you feel their pain. You will have the zechus to have a share in their healing.
May we all be zocheh to see true Yiddish nachas from our children. There is no greater joy!
Directors, Broken Ties
Don’t Judge Our Boys [Inbox / Issue 925]
This message is in response to the reader who responded to Outlook, Issue 924, and stated that “most Israelis immaturely run away from the country as soon as they finish service.”
Our family has been living in Ramat Beit Shemesh for many years. Our boys have not yet reached army age; however, I have many friends and acquaintances whose sons have gone through the army and have heard about the trauma they’ve experienced at the tender age of 18. Invading Arab villages in the middle of the night, seeing their friends maimed or, Rachmana litzlan, killed, constantly fearing for their lives while living in the most challenging and uncomfortable physical settings. Putting their lives at stake every single day to protect the Jewish country and people.
They see things no one should see. Experience things no one should experience. They are in a position no one should be in. Their innocence is broken forever and many experience chronic trauma and PTSD.
Please don’t judge our boys for what you think they have gone through. Please open your eyes beyond Brooklyn and realize that this issue is far more complicated than you understand, let alone criticize. I’m certain that if your son were to go through that, you would not label his trauma as “immature.”
Singing Their Way to Victory [Standing Ovation / Issue 925]
I really enjoyed Grand Finale in Issue 925, but after receiving countless messages, I felt a need to correct some of the historical facts.
Camp Agudah Toronto is nestled in Port Carling, Ontario, a mere two-hour drive from Toronto. The uniqueness of this camp is that it hosts boys for one month and girls for the other month. Those who spend summers there have fantastic memories.
The year was 1989, and camp had experienced a shift in the head staff. Rabbi Moshe Rosner left his post as head counselor and opened up Camp Rayim, while Rabbi Tzvi Zev Schwartz left to become the first head counselor in Camp Romimu. Rabbi Armo Kuessous, who had been assistant head counselor for many years, was given his time to shine as he was now appointed head counselor. Rabbi Moishe Blaustein was added to the head staff as camp supervisor.
Rabbi Avrohom Lefkowitz was the learning director, while his brother Dovid was the assistant head counselor. Those who were there that year look back at how special a summer it was.
The color war generals were Avromi Abish and Boruch (Legend) Teitz. When it came time to write the alma mater, Dovid — who had previously spent time in Camp Ma Na Vu — threw out the idea of using MBD’s “Yidden.” Chaim Loeb grabbed the idea and wrote a true masterpiece (attached is pic of the words from the yearbook).
I was on the staff of the blue team, and Meshulem Epstein led us in Sharm El-Sheikh. Our soloist was a young first summer camper named Baruch Levine, and our team had a good feeling after he belted out the rendition.
Avromi Teitz then led the red team with their child soloist Hillel Berkovics. Right from the introduction the energy was palpable and tangible. I remember sitting next to my dear friend Eli Walkin and saying, “We’re cooked, this song is going to give them victory.” I have never witnessed an alma mater like that. It was unconventional at the time, but I’m sure it helped them beat us at the finish line.
It is over 30 years later, and when I meet old-time camp friends, that song is almost always a topic of conversation.
Doomed Effort [Inbox / Issue 925]
The campaign to raise teachers’ salaries was very exciting to me. But I don’t think anything will become of it, for a simple reason. There is no one to fund it.
Many families struggle to pay tuition, and most people simply don’t view it as a priority. I personally witnessed a story where a school was trying to collect the minimum tuition from someone, and the father started screaming that the school was choking him! And this is from a family that has a summer home, the latest model car and new wigs and fancy weddings and brand-name bags, etc.
Fundraising is not the answer either, since most schools are already fundraising to the max.
So when we see enthusiasm for increasing teachers’ salaries, basically people are saying they’re okay with other people covering the raises. When people are willing to pay more for teachers from their own pockets, we might see real change.
B. Appel, Boro Park
Filling the Chinuch Holes [Inbox / Issue 925]
After a long summer spent trying to fill staffing for our girls’ high school here in Las Vegas, almost groveling to have people agree to teach a class or two, there were many realizations that I had about the state of chinuch and the attitude toward chinuch these days.
The challenge we are facing right now is really frightening. If we do not have morahs and mechanchos present in the classroom any longer to inspire our girls, then we are disconnecting them from Yiddishkeit. As Rabbi Benzion Klatzko once said in a speech, “Judaism is a relationship, not a religion.” The challenge with all relationships is that, until the initial introduction is made, we are not even aware of the potential that relationship holds.
We need those women out there who have already been introduced to the Ribbono shel Olam and live and breathe the beauty of Yiddishkeit. Women who can convey that Yiddishkeit is meaningful because of the connection with Hashem that we have. This idea is something that, more and more, needs to be brought back into our classrooms and to our girls.
However, when our teachers are underpaid and, even more, underappreciated, this is a huge deterrent. Instead, we have discouraged young women from the field of education.
Along with every other school, ours is currently facing the challenge resulting from this situation: There are simply not enough teachers. Too few are going into teaching today. Women who would be incredible, inspiring mechanchos, who have the ability to love a neshamah for exactly who she is, who can see past the now and be a visionary of the future, who are passionate and exciting, are instead out in the secular world.
Is there a solution? No, there is no perfect solution. Every family is challenged with making a living to support their families, but there are a few things we could do to help ease the challenge a bit.
Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier says in one of his shmuessen that, since the time of the Spanish Inquisition, we have never seen wealth the way we have it today. Baruch Hashem, there is so much talent among Klal Yisrael, and many have seen tremendous financial success.
First, and probably most practically, if a person is able to, after his tuition payments and other financial obligations, perhaps consider sending another check to your child’s school, or, even if you don’t have girls, to the local school. Schools are not banking money; they are trying to pay their teachers respectable salaries. They are also putting a tremendous amount of their funds into providing necessary programs and supplies for their own students.
If the schools were to receive a check here and there that was designated to be given solely back to the teachers, those unexpected bonuses go a very long way.
The second suggestion is not something everyone can do. If someone has a chush for teaching, and some people know they have that knack, and have a schedule that allows them to work part-time, to work per diem, etc., maybe consider maasering a few hours of your week to teach a class or get involved.
Yes, it is work and it is daunting at first, but the payback on the teacher’s end is not just what she takes to the classroom; it is eternal. Rav Moshe writes that a ben Torah is supposed to maaser some of his time back to chesed in Klal Yisrael. Some of the most impactful teachers in our school have taken time out of their schedules to teach and have created lasting impressions in the lives of our girls. If we all took that outlook and were able to maaser even a few hours to help our schools, think of what we could do to help be mechazeik our schools and our girls.
The last suggestion, which may seem the most obvious and most simple, which is why it is often forgotten: Say thank you! Schools are not perfect, teachers are not perfect. We make mistakes. But a good teacher is also one who is open to learning from her mistakes and ultimately wants what is best for her students. When there is a problem, be open to hearing both sides and working as a partner. The more that the child sees the partnership between the parent and school, the more she will gain as well. Take a few minutes periodically to email the teacher or the principal and say thank you for something. If you can, write out a note. You have no idea how far a thank you can go.
Mrs. Sarah Schwartz
Principal, Ateres Bnos Ita
Note: Please be advised that in last week’s Inbox, a letter-writer mentioned a kashrus agency in a letter regarding quail. Mishpacha encourages readers to consult with their personal halachic advisors as to which hashgachos should be relied upon.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 927)
Title: Not Mir-ly Another Yeshivah
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Document: Mir 1949 Budget
Just weeks after the armistice ending the 1948 War of Independence was signed, the Mir rosh yeshivah, Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel, turned to the legendary Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung in New York for assistance with his fledgling yeshivah in Yerushalayim. With a student body of 91 and stipends still paid out in Palestinian lira, the monthly budget rounded out to the whopping sum of LP 1,264. As the Palestinian pound had been pegged to the British pound until the end of the Mandate a year prior, this amounted to an annual budget of over 15,000 pounds for the nascent yeshivah.
As he had done previously, Rabbi Jung continued to assist the yeshivah, even obtaining funds for a building from one of his well-heeled congregants, the great Torah supporter Samuel Kaufman.
Rav Leizer Yudel, having escaped to Eretz Yisrael from Europe in 1941, spent the war years apart from his beloved yeshivah, which had fled across Asia to Shanghai. He first settled in Tel Aviv near his son — and future mashgiach of Mir — Rav Chaim Zev Finkel. The latter was one of the founders of the Slabodka branch in Tel Aviv, Heichal Hatalmud. Though Tel Aviv was teeming with Torah scholars, chassidic rebbes, and yeshivos, Rav Leizer Yudel made it clear that his stay there was just a stopover on his itinerary.
In 1944 he founded the Mir Yeshivah of Yerushalayim, with ten Yerushalmi talmidim in a modest shul in Batei Milner, not far from their current location in the Beis Yisrael neighborhood. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, at great personal sacrifice, sent top talmidim from his own Etz Chaim, which formed the nucleus of the original elite group at the Mir. The yeshivah grew slowly but steadily into the great citadel of Torah we know today — now the largest in the world, with close to 10,000 talmidim.
As the beis medrash continuously shifted from one temporary location to another, Rav Leizer Yudel provided even the single students with monthly stipends — as he had done in Europe — since the yeshivah was unable to provide proper accommodations for its growing student body. Yeshivah students across Israel knew that Rav Leizer Yudel had a “weakness” for bnei Torah and would somehow always find a way to support those in need, even beyond the walls of his own beis medrash.
Rav Leizer Yudel’s children figured prominently among the faculty, including Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, his son-in-law, who had recently arrived from the United States; future rosh yeshivah Rav Beinish Finkel, who had spent the war years in Eretz Yisrael; and his youngest son, Rav Moshe Finkel. The latter would spend decades both fundraising and assisting behind the scenes, and passed away in 2004. Rav Moshe’s son was the popular maggid shiur Rav Elya Baruch Finkel.
The legendary mashgiach Rav Chatzkel Levenstein had also recently arrived, following his years at the helm of the yeshivah in its Shanghai exile and then a two-year stint as mashgiach at the Mirrer Yeshivah in Brooklyn. He’d remain as the mashgiach in Mir Yerushalayim, until acceding to the request of the Ponevezher Rav to assume the same position in Ponevezh in 1954, after the untimely passing of Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler.
Among the prestigious group of founding talmidim of Mir Yerushalayim were soon-to-be-renowned tzaddikim of Yerushalayim, rabbis, roshei yeshivah, and Torah leaders, including Rav Chaim Brim, Rav Nota Freund, Rav Mendel Atik, Rav Yudel Shapiro, Rav Moshe Shea Landau, Rav Yosef Salant and several others. The longtime baal korei of the yeshivah, Rav Yechiel Zilberberg, arrived from Torah V’yirah. Years later, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel would describe how welcome he felt among the “Yerushalmi Mirrers” who adopted him as one of their own.
The First of Many
Rounding off the list of rebbeim is Rav Zalman Rotberg, the son of the Luna Rav, Rav Tuvia Rotberg, who was a close student of the Chofetz Chaim. Rav Zalman studied in Grodno and Mir, before being forced to return to Grodno to avoid a draft notice. His relationship with Rav Shimon Shkop grew stronger, and he slept in Rav Shimon’s room.
Due to the military draft, Rav Zalman immigrated to Eretz Yisrael along with his close friend Rav Shmuel Rozovsky, future rosh yeshivah of Ponevezh. In 1946, Rav Zalman was invited to serve as the first maggid shiur in the newly established Mir in Yerushalayim. He remained there through the mid-1950s before departing to found his own yeshivah in Bnei Brak, named Beis Meir in memory of his father in-law, Rav Meir Karelitz.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 927)
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