“While this is a nisayon that we wouldn’t necessarily consciously choose, we echo what Rabbi Russel says: You grow as your child grows”
Couldn’t Put It Down [The Torchbearer / Special Tribute Supplement]
This was the scene: Huddled under numerous blankets searching for fire and inspiration on a freezing cold, dark Shabbos Chanukah night, I picked up your outstanding Rav Aharon tribute. Couldn’t put it down. Lit up the night.
Rabbi Yechiel Spiro
A Gift for Us All [The Torchbearer / Special Tribute Supplement]
Thank you for the outstanding write-up about Reb Aharon ztz”l, which we really enjoyed reading. It was well-written, well-structured, and most importantly, contained so many treasures of information and inspiration.
Reb Aharon was a gadol who created a foundation of Torah and Yiddishkeit for hundreds of thousands of Yidden in America and beyond. Being able to learn about him in an easy and clear way is a gift that we hope will bring to greater appreciation of Reb Aharon, what he fought for, and his remarkable impact.
Looking forward to read more about gedolim by these authors.
Amazing Talent [The Torchbearer / Special Tribute Supplement]
I was born in Lakewood over 40 years ago and grew up on 6th Street, the block of Beth Medrash Govoha. My father learned in Beth Medrash Govoha from 1973, and I literally grew up in BMG. Before reading this article I thought I had pretty much heard and read everything there is to know about Rav Aharon ztz”l. However, since I am a born-and-bred Lakewooder, I had to read it to double-check that I wasn’t missing anything.
I started reading it Friday evening, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished the entire thing. Dovi and Yehuda have an amazing talent to know what to write and how to write it. They literally brought me to tears a few times while reading the article. The history is fascinating and gives a greater understanding and appreciation of Rav Aharon, and the stories were just amazing.
The story about Rav Dovid Cohen’s parents is such a beautiful and inspiring lesson. It shows us how Hashem pays back those who sacrifice for His Torah, and it shows Rav Aharon’s tremendous hakaras hatov to donors who pushed themselves to donate more than their ability.
Outstanding Package [Expanded Chanukah Edition / Issue 941]
This past week is often the earliest Shabbos; although Los Angeles is not the earliest time for the US, it was still one of the earliest beginning times. Why is this relevant to the Mishpacha reader? The long Friday night gives me more time to enjoy my weekly Mishpacha magazine, until my lids keep closing, and the magazine slips from my hands. This week, the Chanukah issue was so outstanding that I am still reading it although I paused on Motzaei Shabbos to write this note.
I love details, so to be able to read a short biography of Rav Aharon Kotler ztz’’l in its entirety has been a truly outstanding experience.
The rest of the articles, filled with history, observations about life’s experiences, the light and humorous experiences, told with the terrific writing techniques that are unique to the magazine, have propelled me to savor every page.
In Family First, the personal stories were illuminating. I am not only traditionally known as the “spiller mommy” (now bubby) but I often lose items and just as often find them either almost immediately, or in one case, a year later. I could feel the joy of each writer as the lost treasure was recovered, or if necessary, not found. The messages were indeed profound.
What an issue!
I am ending my letter now so I can continue reading. My husband went to his daf yomi shiur; what else would I want to do? Mishpacha rules!
Clarisse Schlesinger, Los Angeles, CA
Beyond Expectations [The Moment / Issue 941]
Thank you for your short but heartfelt tribute to Albert (Beri) Reichmann.
Over 25 years ago, in the infant stages of Dor Yeshorim (Committee for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases), many from our community didn’t understand the importance of this task. Money was hard to come by, and the unpaid bills kept rising.
A group from Dor Yesharim’s board, led by Rav Yosef Eckstein, Dor Yeshorim’s founder, had met with Albert (Beri) Reichmann at the Olympia York headquarters a while back, but it was more of an informative session, not a fundraiser.
One morning, I received a call from Rav Eckstein that he needed me and co-board member Yossie Brachfeld to fly with him to Toronto to see Mr. Reichmann. I asked him if he had an appointment, to which he answered, “No.” But he knew that Mr. Reichmann would definitely be home, as he was scheduled to host a parlor meeting that evening for a children’s hospital in Toronto.
We met at the airport, flew to Toronto and, an hour and a half later, knocked on his door.
To my surprise, Reb Albert personally opened the door and graciously ushered us in. After some mild pleasantries, we explained to him our mission and how we needed some hefty funds to get us “off the ground.”
He thought for a short moment and then offered us $180,000... every month for the next 18 months!
Suffice it to say, this was the infusion that allowed Dor Yeshorim to begin reaching out in earnest.
Rabbi Yosef C. Golding
In His Merit [Payback Time / Issue 941]
Thank you for printing Aharon Kliger’s awesome story.
A man like Ofer is an inspiration to all Jews. He was accused of a crime he did not commit. He was humiliated in public. His reputation was ruined by lashon hara. Cruel insinuations ruined his chance of marriage. He coped with loneliness day in day out: Shabbos, Yom Tov, and weekdays, year after year.
After all that, when the Jew who wrongly blamed him apologized, he forgave!
It’s thanks to the merit of special people like Ofer that Hashem has mercy on the Jewish people.
A Model to Follow [Ahead of the Game / Issue 940]
I am writing in as I was touched and inspired by the article “Ahead of the Game,” published in last week’s Mishpacha, detailing how the kind Mr. Ginsberg gave his arcade winnings to children in need.
I took note as I myself over the years have had a mazel with winning stuffed toys from claw machines (which most people find hard to believe) at various amusement parks/arcades in the UK. After reading the article, I was inspired to donate some of my winnings as well.
I rounded up ten teddies of different sizes and characters (depicted in the photo here) and donated these to a Jewish charity in London that would be able to distribute the teddies to children in need.
This felt even better than winning.
I now have a new lease to win more stuffed animals/toys to be able to donate some more, so thank you for sharing the inspiration!
L. D., Golders Green, London
My Glimpse Behind the Iron Curtain [Russian Roulette / Issue 940]
Reading the article about Ernie Hirsch’s shlichim to Russia brought back nostalgic memories of my own trips in 1988 together with Rav Moshe Turetsky.
We went to Moscow and spent Shabbos at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Elya Steingart. It was summer, very hot and the windows were open — but that didn’t deter Mr. Steingart from singing zemiros with gusto at the top of his voice.
When we asked if he’s not worried that the neighbors could hear and report him to the KGB for having strangers staying in his apartment, his answer was simple: “Anu lo mefachadim — we’re not afraid.” The same thing happened Shabbos morning and also during Seudah Shlishis.
About ten minutes before nacht we were sitting singing and talking when the doorbell rang. Mrs. Steingart suddenly went white and told us not to make a sound. Mr. Steingart opened the door. His mother was standing there; she thought it was already Motzaei Shabbos. All was well. But the fear of having a visit from the KGB was palpable, really in the air.
The last shiur we gave was attended by many people, including one couple who spoke English quite well. They were not refuseniks and had no plans to leave Russia. When I asked the husband why he hadn’t made any effort to leave, he told me to ask his wife.
She explained that in Russia they have everything — school, housing, food, no shortages — whereas in the West there’s nothing at all. I tried to explain that it was not true but she insisted that she had learned all these facts in school and knew the truth.
They had been married a number of years, had seen various doctors, but were not blessed with children. I made a deal with them: They would come to London for a visit. If they saw that I was right and the West was indeed stocked with plenty, then they’d apply for an exit visa. If, however, they saw that her teachers were right, then they’d return to Moscow and stay there.
They arrived about one year later and couldn’t believe their eyes when I took them to the various stores, shuls, etc. They agreed I was right! This woman also visited a Jewish gynecologist in Golders Green during her stay, and she gave birth to a boy one year later. The entire family moved to Israel shortly after that.
Reb Ernie, thank you for the zechus of taking part in your amazing work.
The Right Thing to Do [Russian Roulette / Issue 940]
Your article “Russian Roulette” brought back memories of my own father’s visit to Russia as one of Ernie Hirsch’s 249 volunteers. He was scheduled to be in Russia over my ninth birthday, and I remember taking that personal bit of sacrifice very seriously indeed.
He and his partner traveled wearing several layers of clothing, which they gave to the refuseniks who had so little. Besides the kosher cured meats, seforim, and valuable cameras (to be sold on the black market) packed into their suitcases, they also brought along spy-holes for refuseniks to install in their front doors to provide advance warning of the identity of visitors. Of the 100kg luggage they carried between them, everything — besides one change of clothing for each volunteer — was left behind for the Russian Jews. Even the suitcases.
The hotel where they stayed was structured with two long corridors meeting at a central point on every floor, where two women sat at a desk logging all the guests’ comings and goings. There was no way to enter or leave undetected.
My father recalls the most profound Kiddush Levanah experience of his life, in the minus-30 degrees cold, in the still of the night on Motzaei Shabbos in Moscow. The only other human being outside was their KGB tail, silently suffering in the cold….
There was a store called Beryozka where only foreigners were allowed to shop, and you could only pay in foreign currency. My father and his partner visited as many times as they could to buy stocks of baby formula (limited to five to six cartons per customer), which they then passed on to the Russian Jews.
We kids were very proud of our father for being so brave and knowingly facing danger for the sake of his fellow Jews, but he himself was — and still is — very matter of fact about it. It was the right thing to do at the time, and he did it.
Mrs. Chayelle Kliger, London
You Grow as They Grow [Growing Together / Issue 939]
The interview with Rabbi Russel was a refreshing and validating read, especially as my husband and I have experienced this firsthand.
We did not know about Rabbi Russell and his work at the time we were dealing with our struggling child. It was nine long years of “gehinnom oif di velt,” as Rabbi Russel aptly describes. We had to navigate these stormy waters on our own, with each new situation feeling like another tsunami had hit.
With much prayer and many tears, Hashem sent us siyata d’Shmaya through sources of daas Torah who were empathic and paskened halachah with compassion. We also surrounded ourselves with peers who were just as compassionate, and we are so grateful to our rabbanim and our friends. Friends: You have no idea what kind of support you are providing just by your non-judgmental listening!
While this is a nisayon that we wouldn’t necessarily consciously choose, we echo what Rabbi Russel says: You grow as your child grows. Therefore, when some others in the family had their issues, it still was hard, but we were at a higher place on the mountain to look down from and help.
There is still no nice neat “happy ending” for some. Yet. And still we daven. But you learn to adjust expectations and redefine what is “happy.” We have a relationship with all of our children and right now that is how we define happy! And dare it be said, even nachas, albeit in a non-typical form.
If I could add two things to this beautiful article, one is to seek the chizuk you as the parent need for yourself, not just in regards to your child. Two, do something ruchniyus in nature for yourself as that is also fortifying. In fact, it was at one Minchah tefillah which I had taken upon myself to daven, as I was davening for the right shlichim in my child’s life, that I had an epiphany. Maybe my husband and I were indeed those shlichim that our child needed. It was an empowering thought and reframed the way I looked at the situation.
I wish everyone hatzlachah and strength and the courage to do what needs to be done for the healing and growth of your child and yourself.
Note: The letter-writer can be contacted through Mishpacha.
Why Not Healthcare? [A Few Minutes with Eitan Regev / Issue 939]
I’m writing in response to your interview with Eitan Regev about chareidi employment.
I’ve been living in Israel for 14 years now, and it’s interesting to me that in contrast to the US, it’s very rare to find chareidim working in healthcare, unless they are olim or baalei teshuvah.
I am wondering if there is some way to change that and create a way to train chareidim in the fields of medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, to name a few.
I live in Beit Shemesh, the city that was used in the article as an example to highlight the issues and opportunities that confront chareidim looking for employment.
Beit Shemesh has grown tremendously in the last few years, with mostly chareidim moving in and filling the new neighborhoods. It has become a real struggle for all the health funds to be able to open and adequately staff healthcare clinics and pharmacies. As a pharmacist, I can tell you that there is a severe shortage of pharmacists in Israel, and here in Beit Shemesh it has been a struggle to keep open and staff our existing pharmacies, let alone open new branches despite the constant requests.
Almost daily I get complaints from customers that the pharmacy closer to their home is closed or inquiries as to when we will open a branch in the latest neighborhood to be built. My response is always the same: Find us pharmacists, and you’ll get what you want.
But it’s not only a pharmacy issue. I have heard from branch managers requests for more female ob-gyns. Another complaint is an overall lack of physicians, resulting in long waiting times to be seen or no one available to renew a prescription. Their response is the same as mine.
Obviously, it would be more comfortable for everyone to be able to have their healthcare needs attended to by someone who looks like them and understands their unique religious needs and concerns — but where are such people to be found if chareidim can’t or won’t enter these fields?
I find it ironic that it’s mostly tech fields that are being pushed as employment opportunities for chareidim, when technology is being touted as a terrible danger. On the other hand, the medical professions allow one to become a shaliach for Hashem’s refuah and help people observe the mitzvah of “v’nishmartem meod l’nafshosechem.”
Perhaps new opportunities for chareidi employment lie in the world of healthcare?
Wishing everyone an easy and honorable parnassah,
Chana Berkovits, PharmD,
Beit Shemesh, Israel
Why So Triggering? [Not Black and White / Double Take – Issue 938]
I am following the exchange of opinions on the recent Double Take story “Not Black and White.”
As is often the case, readers reaction to a (fictional) story often tells a lot more about the individual than the story that triggered it.
It’s interesting to see how many people get very emotional and empathetic towards David, as he seems to resonate with them and their experiences.
The idea that we ought to take the side of the victim is quite prevalent in today’s world.
However, those who read the story carefully can note that it wasn’t about not accepting David, but rather an effort to uphold a standard of a shul and to preserve an environment where coming to shul is for the sole purpose of davening. It’s interesting to note that those intentions weren’t lost on David, as he too was bothered by the lack of seriousness on behalf of the newcomers.
If the point of the story is very clear (and in my opinion, quite “black and white,” no pun intended), then why are the details so triggering for some readers? Why are we so often forced to lose our instinctive sense of right and wrong?
How Could You Turn Me Away? [Not Black and White / Double Take – Issue 938]
In this Double Take story, the author discusses a situation in shul where, in order to curb disrespect, guidelines are set down for the congregants. In my case, the situation in shul was different. The shul was a quiet place where davening was taken seriously. The rav was treated with respect. In my case, the guidelines were not posted on the door but were carried out in person by a shaliach and ultimately the rav.
I was a regular attendee at the minyan. I wore a kippah srugah, a knitted yarmulke. One Shabbos afternoon, a member of the shul came up to me and informed me that if I did not change my yarmulke, I would not be welcomed in the shul. I could not believe what I heard!
I went to speak to the rav directly to ask him if this was true. He confirmed it for me. If I did not change my yarmulke, I would no longer be able to daven there.
That night I met a fellow congregant, a regular who had not shown up for davening that week. I asked him if he was okay since I had not seen him that Shabbos. He said he was asked to leave the shul because he wore a wedding band. He was given the choice to remove the ring or daven elsewhere. Needless to say, neither of us returned to that minyan.
I am a baal teshuvah. Baruch Hashem, I was very strong in my religious beliefs at that time. If I had not been as firmly established in Yiddishkeit, this incident could very likely have driven me away from Orthodoxy.
To quote the article: How can you turn me (or anyone else) away for something as superficial as a hat (or yarmulke or ring)? Isn’t a Jewish neshamah more important than some outward trapping?
Still on the Derech
Rebbetzin Wolbe’s Lesson [Not Black and White / Double Take – Issue 938]
After reading about the Double Take story about the “black hat,” I must share a fascinating experience.
I had an Uncle Jack who was a Holocaust survivor and one of the few survivors of the Riga ghetto. He also survived a terrible place called Stutthof, which he said had fewer survivors than Auschwitz.
When my brother in Yerushalayim made a chasunah, my uncle came. The chassan was close to Rav Wolbe ztz”l, who came to the wedding with his wife. Uncle Jack heard that Rebbetzin Rivkah Wolbe ztz”l was a survivor of Stutthof, and told me that he must go over to her.
I tried to dissuade him, saying that a chasunah might not be the right time for it, but he insisted.
I will never forget what happened.
He went over to the Rebbetzin and told her in Yiddish that he was in Stutthof. And she shouted, “You were in Stutthof?” She looked at him like a brother, almost as if she would have wanted to hug him if she could. Then she emotionally said to him “We speak the zelbe litvishe Yiddish — We speak the same Lithuanian Yiddish!”
There was such a bond.
The scene is etched in my memory forever. It was then I learned a powerful lesson in ahavas Yisrael. Because Rebbetzin Wolbe didn’t even notice, nor could she possibly care, about something that I was well aware of. I’m sure everyone else in the room was aware of it as well.
What was that?
My Uncle Jack was the only “kippah serugah” in a sea of “black hats”!
At that moment I was cured forever of attaching significance to the type of head covering someone wears.
Sadly, I am adding a postscript to this story. The Chicago Jewish community was recently plunged into mourning with the tragic passing of my dear friend and rav, Rabbi Reuven Gross z”l. There is so much to say about him. But for now, this lesson is at the core of the beautiful kehillah that he and his rebbetzin built.
Yehi zichro baruch.
Moshe Katz, Chicago
Correction: The feature “Embers of Eternity” about Machon Mishnas Rav Aharon, in last week’s “Torchbearer” special supplement, omitted mention of the key role of Dr. Marvin Schick in the work of the Machon. Just before his petirah, Rav Shneur Kotler ztz”l introduced a young Rabbi Tzvi Rotberg to Dr. Schick and charged the two of them with undertaking to publish the Torah of Rav Aharon Kotler ztz”l. Dr. Schick proceeded to serve as the chairman of the Machon, and devoted more than 30 years to supporting and maintaining its work. In fact, for quite some time the Machon was known as Machon Mishnas Rav Aharon Al Shem Mishpachas Schick. We regret the omission.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 942)
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