“It is my true hope that it will soon become the ‘in-thing’ to look for a son-in-law or daughter-in-law who is a ‘built’ person”
Soothed My Hurting Heart [Healing from Within / Issue 935]
How can I thank the person who wrote “Haven for a Seeking Soul” in response to Allison Josephs’s intriguing article?
Without wanting to take away anything from Allison Josephs’s findings and premises, I must confess that I read the reaction with tears rolling down my face. We are a loving warm chareidi family who showered our children with security, warmth, acceptance, and a healthy attachment. But one precious son, 37 years old and a brilliant professional, is currently not shomer Shabbos.
We and his siblings have the most beautiful contact with him. We took out several mortgages in order to pay for his academic studies and will be paying them up for another 15 years.
The words from the Skulener Rebbe embraced me and soothed my hurting heart. As proud as I am of him, that’s how deep the pain is. Your words and the message behind them are so, so true.
Thank you. Thank you again.
A Present and Future [Healing from Within / Issue 935]
In reference to the anonymous parent of a struggling child whose pain is “far, far worse than having a child with the worst physical sickness”:
I cannot begin to fathom your pain, guilt, and in our culture, the shame, of having a child who has lost their way. However, you can still walk with your daughter, give her a hug, and maybe even imagine bringing her to the chuppah and holding her newborn baby.
Those of us who have lost a child have none of that — no present, no future, no hopes and no dreams. All we have are memories and a kever to visit.
I wish you hatzlachah with your daughter. May your pain be short-lived.
Judy Frankel, Queens and Yerushalayim
The Boost I Needed [Healing from Within / Issue 935]
As a major Jewish publication, you often receive praise and accolades from your readers, but are also often berated and called to task for things including topics that people find inappropriate or unnecessary to publicize or expose readers to. None of us can do a perfect job at anything we do, but you certainly seem to try. I personally want to thank you for being the ones to include such topics.
As a general statement, when things that affect our community are not addressed or discussed, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means that those involved or impacted can feel alone or embarrassed or not understood.
Specifically, you recently published the article by Allison Josephs about attachment trauma being a cause of OTD individuals. The outpouring of feedback I’ve been following has been providing ongoing chizuk and support to me, as a parent of a child on a journey to find himself.
With the agreement of those who know me, as well as rabbanim and professionals who are familiar with us, my child did not suffer from attachment trauma at home, nor was he abused.
After years of independent work, I am baruch Hashem in a (usually) healthy and accepting place regarding my role in my child’s neshamah’s journey, and appreciating all the special qualities he has, which are many. And yet I can also use a boost.
This past week’s letters included the story of the Skulener Rebbe, and it gave me one such boost: both for the sentiment of a parent being chosen (as one of my son’s rebbeim once told me), and the thought that the little things these children in such tough places do bring Hashem great pleasure.
As for the suggestion of E.W., the writer who says not to call them OTD — I wholeheartedly agree. My child has never voiced those reactions, but I have found it helpful to consider them on a journey, as we all are, although theirs may be more painful and more difficult.
The anonymous letter writer who called parents attachment heroes made me cry. Some of her examples described circumstances I myself have been in. Thank you to that writer for that understanding and recognition.
May I please add that the heroes are also siblings of those on a journey. Those who can, accept and love and walk with their siblings, and that takes a tremendous amount of koach, and they too need and deserve support and recognition.
May all those journeying find their way to a healthy and happy place within the Torah world, and may we all be zocheh soon to the coming of the Geulah, when we will gain clarity and understanding.
Thank you again.
A grateful reader
Free Choice Is Real [Healing from Within / Issues 935]
As a Parent-in-Pain, with children who are On a Different Derech, I followed the correspondence regarding Allison Josephs’s “Healing from Within,” searching in vain for someone to make what seemed to me an obvious point. Insecure attachment, lack of academic success, lack of spirituality, etc. — all were posited as risk factors for people choosing to leave Torah. The unstated presumption in all these letters was: If we could fix this one issue, the child would choose differently.
To me, this smacks of determinism: We know what causes all aspects of behavior, so if we control the environment and input ABC, the output will invariably be the XYZ we desire. What is lacking is the agency of the individual making the choice: bechirah chofshis.
Rabbi Akiva Tatz, in Will, Freedom and Destiny, expands on Rav Dessler’s explanation of bechirah: “A dysfunctional family will indeed be an important cause of the set of options available to its children… The situation may not have been of their making, but the option they chose within it was exactly that: their choice.” Further, “The act of choice is the unique human experience that has no causal explanation” other than the neshamah’s choice [emphasis added].
On Yom Kippur, we cannot klap al cheit while absolving ourselves because of “circumstances”; we must acknowledge our culpability, the requisite first step in teshuvah. We cannot mimic Elazar ben Durdaya, casting blame on parents and society; we must proclaim as he finally did, “Ein hadavar talui ela bi.”
Our ODD children must make the same statement.
Are adults therefore completely absolved? Of course not! We must fulfill our roles to the best of our abilities, and even strive to improve those abilities to carry out the responsibilities Hashem has given us.
Did I ever decline to answer an unexpected question on a sensitive topic? Guilty as charged. Did I ever use harsh language to describe my feelings about certain actions? Guilty again. Did I often stay up till 2 a.m., dissecting esoteric topics my child raised, until seforim and books covered every horizontal surface? Yes to that too. Did my child returning home from who-knows-where after midnight find me with Tehillim in hand (and hot supper on the stove)? Yes, once again.
So what is my point?
We must learn what produces the range of choices, and try to become the best we can each be, in order to present our children with a positive range. We dare not say: It’s their choice; let them live with the consequences.
But neither can we say: It’s all my fault! If only I had acted differently, surely they would have chosen differently.
Everyone must work to improve himself, which will, b’ezras Hashem, afford young people a range of better choices. With Tehillim un trern, I wish all Yiddishe parents much nachas from all their doros.
A parent in pain
If You Want a Rebbetzin, Pay for One [Inbox / Issue 934]
When I saw the response to the Double Take story regarding the rebbetzin’s responsibilities to the shul, I had to respond.
I wonder if the writer of the letter is aware of the fact that a rabbi’s salary is commonly not a living wage, and that rabbanim usually are not offered a benefits package. We wives are then put into the position of having to take a full-time job that offers benefits and can supplement the income of our hardworking husbands.
Working out of the house for eight hours a day, then coming home to household responsibilities, children who need help with homework, evening carpools, and PTA meetings is exhausting enough, but on top of that all, there are the requisite simchahs we are expected to attend.
You say in your response, “This is a paid position, and these are the rules.” I say, “Pay us the equivalent of two decent salaries, and you shall have your rebbetzin.”
It is probably not even understood how hard my husband and many of his colleagues work, preparing and giving shiurim, answering sh’eilos for not only members of our shul, but for many people in other shuls who cannot reach their rav, or who inexplicably continue to ask my husband their sh’eilos long after leaving to attend the “in” shul. Rabbanim may learn with shul members one on one, make home visits for mezuzah placement or succah sh’eilos, and do shalom bayis counseling, all for no extra compensation.
Yes, we “chose this life,” and the shared sechar that we are receiving from our husbands’ avodas hakodesh is a wonderful “payment,” but it does not pay the bills. If you value our presence enough, adequate compensation might go a long way to making this happen.
I do agree, however, that in this scenario, the Rebbetzin should have called the baalas simchah to explain her absence and apologize. But that has nothing to do with being a rebbetzin; it has to do with being a good friend and a mensch.
An Anonymous Rebbetzin
Grateful for Our Reluctant Rebbetzin [Inbox / Issue 934]
I was very dismayed to read the letter entitled “Rebbetzin, Do Your Job” in Issue 934.
I am a member of a shul with a “Reluctant Rebbetzin.” Our rebbetzin does not speak at gatherings, rarely shows up to community events, and only briefly pops into community members’ simchahs (and only when they are local).
That being said, our Rebbetzin is giving our community the biggest gift: her husband. And I doubt this is true for only our community. Throughout the world, there are rebbetzins serving quietly, by giving their husbands the time and space to be shul rabbis in the fullest sense of the word.
Our shul rav is busy all day (and night). He is learning, answering sh’eilos, counseling people of all ages, and dealing with other mosdos is our city — e.g. the kashrus agency, the schools, the mikveh... He attends funerals, officiates at weddings, and the dizzying list goes on and on. The rav of our shul is truly a superhero, taking part in a myriad of thankless jobs to ensure that the Jews in our city are taken care of, in both ruchniyus and gashmiyus.
All of this is only possible because of our wonderful “Reluctant Rebbetzin”! She is the true akeres habayis, holding down the fort at home so her husband can continue to lead our congregation. If she were as busy as the rebbetzin in the story, there is no way her husband would be able to give so much time and energy over to all of us.
In addition, to say that potential shul rabbanim who have wives who are “not up to the task” should find a different profession was unnecessarily harsh and a huge disservice to Klal Yisrael. There are many styles of rabbinic leadership. Each individual, family, and congregation needs to find the leadership model that works in their particular situation. But let’s not disregard the significant contributions of these “Reluctant Rebbetzins.”
Name Withheld (so as not to embarrass our wonderful Rav and Rebbetzin!)
They Know Growth Takes Effort [Inbox / Issue 934]
Dear Mother with a broken heart but wholesome home,
The quote from Rabbi Meir Levy about children of single-parent homes having a hard time in shidduchim personally hit home for me, too. No, I was not personally given the challenge of raising children in a divorced home, but I am a mentor and kallah teacher, and I deal with many women and couples, and feel that I have a bit of an inside view from my experience over the previous decades.
Couples nowadays, regardless of how perfect they look “on paper,” often go through many struggles. Sadly, our environments (schools, social pressures, etc.) often emphasize the external measurements of where one is holding, so as long as all looks good, frum, and “solid,” and as long as the shell of the boy or girl appears on target, then they are considered a “good boy” or “good girl.”
Behind the scenes, however, many “typical couples” endure challenges. Unfortunately, I find that very often, the ones who grew up in homes where everything was constantly being handed to them on a silver platter do not enter marriage with a high level of stamina to deal with relationships and the stark reality of “real life.”
Conversely, very often, a spouse who grew up in a “broken home” has had tremendous life experience that can positively impact his or her role as a spouse and parent. Being a spouse in a successful, thriving marriage takes a person with inner strength, the ability to know how to deal with challenges, flexibility, and the knowledge that in real life, bumps don’t knock us over, but are building blocks.
From my vantage point and experience, I can attest to the fact that those who come from divorced or challenged homes can more often than not be the most caring, compassionate, connecting, supportive, growth-oriented spouses. They understand that real life takes investment of effort, and that when the going gets tough, they look for the high road to travel.
It is my true hope that it will soon become the “in-thing” to look for a son-in-law or daughter-in-law who is a “built” person, and that this will take precedence over looking for someone who “checks off all the boxes on paper.”
I encourage all of you to be sho’el eitzah when deciding what to look for in shidduchim, and I challenge you to attempt to be the Nachshon ben Aminadav who will start the trend of overlooking these situational facts, and focus on looking deep within when it comes to seeking a suitable partner with whom your child can build his or her future home.
May we soon be swamped with letters reminding people not to forget to consider the children from homes with married parents, and may we celebrate many true simchahs together b’karov!
Hoping to share real change and simchahs together
The Right Place? [A Vision for Vienna / Issue 934]
As a European and someone with close relatives living in Vienna, I can only commend the important work Rabbiner Frankel is carrying out.
However, I would question the wisdom of promoting Jewish life in a place where a significant segment of the population still holds virulent anti-Semitic beliefs. In addition, the majority of Austrians believe they were victims of World War II, rather than accept the reality that they were active participants in the Nazi atrocities.
As early as the 14th century, the Maharil describes Vienna as “ir hadamim — the city of blood,” and Austria as “eretz hadamim — the land of blood.”
May we shortly merit to see the gathering of all exiles.
Yudi Mellinger, London UK
Weekly Reports [For the Record / Issue 933]
Yehuda Geberer and Dovi Safier wrote about Dr. Judith Lieberman, the dean of Hebrew studies at Shulamith School for Girls in Boro Park, which was established in 1930.
My father, the Lisker Rebbe, Rabbi Yozef Friedlander ztz”l, one of the first chassidishe rebbes to move to Boro Park in the late 1940s, arranged for two sisters from his kehillah of Holocaust survivors to go to Shulamith School. The school arranged for reduced tuition payments, and I still remember Dr. Judith Lieberman’s visit on an Erev Shabbos to the Lisker Rebbe’s house, in which she shared a detailed written program of what the sisters had learned that week in school.
For the entire year, Dr. Judith Lieberman brought up the program to the Rebbe every week. She assured the Rebbe that the sisters would receive the proper education for a bas Yisrael.
These two sisters both married erlicher talmidei chachamim and raised mishpachos, partly in thanks to Dr. Judith Lieberman.
Rebbetzin Pearl Gitel (Friedlander) Leifer
Enduring Magic, Enduring Joy [When Rebbi Was Young / Issue 933]
Kudos to Mr. Shmuel Botnick for capturing the magic that was Rabbi Shmuel Kunda. I was privileged to have known him as a close friend, indeed, almost a brother, as he married my very close friend Mrs. Naomi (Cohen) Kunda.
Rabbi Kunda’s creative and musical genes were surely passed to him by his mother, Mrs. Ita Kunda a”h, whose father, Cantor Meir Podrabinek, enjoyed great fame both in Europe and in the early years in America. Shmuel Kunda’s father, Rabbi Zalman Kunda z”l, was part of the Mirrer Yeshivah that escaped through Shanghai. His deep commitment to Torah combined with Cantor Podrabinek’s talent and creative energy to create the force that was Rabbi Shmuel Kunda.
Whether in the classroom or in the rolling hills of the Pocono Mountains, his joie de vivre was contagious. Children and adults as well were captivated by his love of every person.
Surely, there is no one who is currently in the world of Jewish children’s music who will not give credit to his influence and innovative concepts when the whole concept was in its infancy.
My grandson knows how to get my voice-activated speaker to play “I’ve Got a Yum Yum Yarmulke,” just as his father listened to it with the same joy on something ancient called a cassette tape — proving that a thing of true beauty is, indeed, a joy forever.
Ahava Ehrenpreis, Brooklyn
Right Man at the Right Time [When Rebbi Was Young / Issue 933]
Thank you, Shmuli Botnick (and Mordy Mehlman), for doing such a great job remembering and capturing the personality and influence of Reb Shmuel Kunda. I’m sure that I was not alone in recalling the many fabulous memories of the magical place called Camp Na’arim, as I read the beautiful article. Rabbi Kunda and libdl”ch Rabbi Dovid Presser (and Joe Fobes?) created a most special place that lives on in the hearts and minds of so many of us today.
Rabbi Kunda was a gamechanger — first in the camping experience, and then ultimately in the way we are mechanech children in many of our schools today. Close to 40 years ago, when I arrived in Camp Na’arim, it was a different world than today. The chinuch my peers and I received was... I guess you could say “European style.” Though it definitely worked for us, as the first generation of children raised by American-born parents, it wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when this style would have to change. Rabbi Kunda was the “right man at the right time.” He took all of his unparalleled talents and used them to entertain and inspire all of us. He was the best artist we had ever seen, the greatest lyricist, and just the outright funniest person (even funnier than the shows we all watched back then!) we had ever encountered. But most significantly, however, it was not merely entertainment — everything he did was saturated with emunah, Torah hashkafah, and just so “Yiddish,” through and through.
All of us who had the zechus to attend Camp Na’arim will of course recall the utter brilliance of the “comeback” grammens during color war, pre-Shabbos Minchah stories (that never finished or started on time), the magnificent drawings for the weekly Nutcracker Newsletter. But ultimately I think we can say the greatest thing Rabbi Kunda did for us was teach us “It’s Geshmak to Be a Yid” (no, the song didn’t exist then).
Rabbi Kunda’s legacy lives on in so many ways. His tapes never get old — we all still somehow laugh at the jokes we’ve been hearing for decades (When Zaidy was Young Part 2 is his greatest tape ever, no question). How many of us put them on for our children, but enjoy it as much, if not more than they do? Much of the entertainment we have for our children today still mimics the revolutionary style Rabbi Kunda created.
However, perhaps his greatest legacy is his impact on the camping world, which still endures today, ten years after his petirah. Numerous well-known overnight camps have one or more head staff members who went through the Rabbi Kunda/Camp Na’arim experience and continue to impart what they learned to another generation of campers.
Yehoshua Ottensoser, Camp Munk
Unfathomable Accomplishments [When Rebbi was Young / Issue 933]
Thank you very much for the great article on Rabbi Kunda. Between his tapes and Camp Naarim, he brought a lot of joy to so many Jewish kids. I grew up on his tapes and attended Camp Naarim and saw him as a magically talented person and larger than life. It was nice to read about his human side.
I’d like to add one point. The legendary Rabbi Avi Lieberman z”l — affectionately known as Rebs, a friend of Rabbi Kunda from their single days — was the head counselor in Camp Naarim’s first year. Many people don’t remember this as he was only there for the first year before moving on to other camps, most notably Camp Horim day camp, where he was head counselor for many years.
Camp Naarim was but a short blip on the screen in Rebs’s amazing career as a mechanech. He was a mashpia as a counselor, head counselor, branch leader of Pirchei of Agudah of 14th Avenue, rebbi, teacher, principal and president of Rav Hillel Davis’s shul. The thousands of people he mentored and helped through the years and still remember him fondly are notable, but when one takes into account the fact that he was niftar 25 years ago, at a very young age, it makes his accomplishments almost unfathomable.
Open Home [Guest of Honor / Issue 931]
We read and enjoy Mishpacha Magazine all of the time and are very impressed with your interesting and varied content.
We especially very much enjoyed reading your article in the recent Yom Tov issue about the Bobover Rebbe, Reb Shloime, while in London after the Holocaust, and would like to clarify some facts.
When the Rebbe came to London after the war, he was very graciously hosted by Reb Hershel Lieber and his wife and family for the duration of his stay. It was during that period that he accepted upon himself the mantle of Rebbe.
These are the facts as per my mother-in-law, Mrs. Ruth Ellinson née Lieber, presently of Jerusalem, who was 14 years old at the time.
Times were difficult then; food was scarce and rationed. But anyone who wanted and needed strictly kosher food and lodging after the Holocaust, with reliable kashrus, knew the address of the Lieber family, where they were very welcome. These visits were often long-term affairs. Among the luminaries hosted by the Lieber family included the Lelover Rebbe, Reb Shloime of Bobov, and Rav Padwa, to name a few.
As previously mentioned, it was in Reb Hershel Lieber’s home that Reb Shloime accepted and was “crowned” Bobover Rebbe following the murder of his father Reb Ben Zion during the holocaust.
Closing of the Jewish Mind [The Beat / Issue 921]
In the July 27 issue, Gedalia Guttentag wrote a short piece asking, “Is it just me, or is the recent magic alignment of parts of the frum world with the latest fashions in American conservative ideology getting a bit much?”
It’s not just you. Despite the Gemara being our lifeblood, the objective search for unadulterated truth so prevalent throughout the 2,711-day cycle of daf yomi remains on the daf, in the book, or on the shelf, and is sadly ignored when a frum Yid thinks about politics.
We’re watching the Closing of the Jewish Mind of our generation. We can discuss the finest threads of intellectual hair-splitting at the top of the world of mental pursuits, yet still be impressed with the non-factual drivel that comes out of the mouths of political pundits.
The Almighty gave us the gift of clarity and analysis not just for Bava Kamma, but to use in the pursuit of truth everywhere, in every endeavor, whether its science or politics or wherever. The emes isn’t conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat.
Thanks for raising the question.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 936)
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