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Inbox: Issue 951

“If you plan on making Eretz Yisrael your permanent home, then my suggestion is do as the Israelis do and live outside of Yerushalayim”


The Real Victims of Tama 38 [Inbox / Issue 950]

This letter is in response to Dovid Green about the Tama projects. It is important to understand that while the projects may be justified and even necessary (though the earthquake issue is actually a source of debate), Tama 38 has been handled terribly.

For anyone who doesn’t have an insider’s view of the Ramat Eshkol situation, let me give you a look.

The way the government went about this benefits everyone but the middle-class renters who are on tight budgets, many of whom are in full-time learning. Personally, when we moved all of our furniture and belongings into a three-bedroom unfurnished and unrenovated apartment in Ramat Eshkol, we were hoping to stay there long term. We were told by our landlord that Tama was not imminent, nor was it a certainty.

After we settled in, the neighbors assured us it would happen — very soon. It took two years, and we were informed that the Tama process was about to begin just a month before the start of construction. We were informed by our fellow residents, not our landlord.

No one gave us a rundown of who the contractors are, who we can contact if something is damaged, or what the rules and regulations would be. On more than one occasion, Arab workers asked to enter my home when I was alone and I was too scared to say no.

Our rent went down during the construction period, but many of my friends were not as lucky. Even the amount we paid was ridiculous for the living conditions we endured. We have baruch Hashem since moved out; we were fortunate enough to find a home in a neighboring area where we are very happy.

Many of my friends were not as fortunate. Some are young American couples who rented these places unknowingly, coming from America with no idea what they were getting into — only a good deal on rent. Others are desperate families who have nowhere else to live and don’t want to pull their kids away from their schools and friends.

Part of the Tama construction requires that residents leave for a certain period of time (two weeks, two months or more), as the workers need to be fully in your house. No one discussed this with us when we signed our contract; people only know of it from hearsay and rumors. We are not Israeli and have nowhere to go should we need to move out. The rent deduction would not cover the full price of any other apartment, nor the price of moving our personal things.

Some people think the issues are just noise and dust. But it’s far worse than that. Leaks, shoddy workmanship, blackouts, water shut off with no warning — especially if you’re a renter and there is zero communication. Some contractors are better than others, but the renters have no say in that. The landlords are paid for the Tama work, while the renters are the ones paying property tax, suffering through the construction and stretching their pockets, only to be charged way more in rent when the construction is complete. Not only do rent prices rise post-Tama, property taxes go up as well.

Perhaps the government could have considered these ramifications, and provided more generous stipends to the renters, given them fair warning, and helped the residents to relocate. Perhaps they could have spent the money on building more apartments, instead of expanding the current ones to luxury size and building ridiculous penthouse apartments that they can auction off.

Dovid Green says that it’s all about supply and demand, and postulates that the market will stabilize. Supply and demand happens organically. If there is a depression or a pandemic, it happens to everyone. This surge in prices was artificially induced by unnecessary and poorly planned construction that turned the neighborhood upside down. The rent increases are so abnormal they don’t even fit on the charts — if I quote numbers to you, your eyes would pop. The market “stabilizing” and going back to normal, just means it will stay at these current impossible prices. The kollel stipends are not going up, the salaries are not rising, and the gan morahs can only raise their prices so much.

At a certain point, the ball is no longer in our court and the government needs to take responsibility for this ghastly mistake.

Anonymous Concerned Citizen and Renter


Decisions Have Costs [Inbox / Issue 950]

If you come from chutz l’Aretz to live in Eretz Yisrael for a year or two after your marriage, then this advice may not be for you. But if you are coming from chutz l’Aretz and plan on making Eretz Yisrael your permanent home, then my suggestion to you is do as the Israelis do and live outside of Yerushalayim.

There is no reason to pay the high prices there when you have lots of amazing communities all over the country where housing is cheaper, life is simpler, neighbors help each other out, and school classes are smaller (sort of “out-of-town”). My husband and I made that choice over 36 years ago. Today my married children live in 4 different cities (mostly in the north of Israel).

If your decision is to live in Yerushalayim, well then, you will have to pay the price. But please stop complaining about it. It’s your choice — and all choices have pros and cons.

T.J., a happy resident of the “peripheria” (Hebrew for suburbs)

The Right Side of the Reforms [Inbox / Issue 950]

First of all, I would like to thank Mishpacha editors and authors for your interesting and thought-provoking articles. I am writing this letter in response to the inbox letter signed by “a concerned citizen” who is concerned about the proposed judicial reforms, which will limit the autocratic power of Israel’s Supreme Court in Israel.

You stated there are many in Israel who think that the judicial system needs reforms, but you also claimed that there are few who support Simcha Rothman’s plan. The latter claim is just not true.

Many, if not most, on the Right think that Simcha Rothman’s plan is a good one. Also, the current members of the Knesset were democratically voted in by the nation and they represent the majority of the people. They, the representatives of the majority of the people of Israel, have voted to implement the reforms proposed by Simcha Rothman (and hopefully will continue to do so).

The members of the Left would like to think that there are members of the Right who agree with them, but those are few and far between. I think that rather than worrying about the limits that will be placed on the undemocratic power that the Supreme Court currently holds, your concern should be reserved for those who have suffered from some of the Supreme Court’s unjust decisions.

I love Mishpacha, enjoy its thought- provoking and professionally written articles, and often read it cover to cover. However, I am often unpleasantly surprised (horrified?) at the negative slant Mishpacha seems to convey regarding the current right-wing government in Israel.

Calling the rightists in the current coalition unruly, implying that they are irrational and accusing them of sliding into civil war when it’s the leftists that have threatened bloodshed are just a few examples of put-downs of the rightists in Israel. These put-downs can discourage people from voting right in the future. Would it be better to have Meretz and Labor in the coalition? Continuously knocking frum members of the right-wing parties is like stabbing ourselves in the back.

E.K., Ramat Beit Shemesh


Back to Slabodka’s Glory Days [For the Record / Issue 949]

The “For the Record” column about the Alter Conventions resonated for me on a personal level. I was privileged to accompany Rav Yakov Moshe Lesin ztz”l, mashgiach ruchani of Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchanan and father-in-law of Rav Avigdor Miller ztz”l, in the late 60s to attend the gathering at the Adas Yisroel shul on East Broadway, New York arranged by the Slabodka office administrator, Mr. Friedman.

The experience was like stepping back for a short while into the beis medrash of Slabodka in its glory days.

At first the participants participated in a morning learning seder, including learning mussar. This was followed by a Rambam pilpul shiur by Rabbi Mordechai Shulman ztz”l. At one point he requested a certain sefer and by mistake someone handed him a siddur. He remarked that if he could say a shiur on the siddur, he might then be considered a gaon olam.

Rabbi Ruderman and Rabbi Kaminetsky sent telegrams that they were unable to attend as they were then in Florida. A Rabbi Shafran and a rav from Linden, New Jersey were present, as well as other alumni.

Around midday the attendees davened Minchah and then departed with the nostalgia of cherished past times.

Thank you, Mishpacha, for the article reliving a special moment of yeshivah world history.

Zalman Zager


The Benefits of Seminary [The Seminary Conundrum / Issue 948]

I was very disappointed to read the responses to “The Seminary Conundrum.”

I’m the first to tell you that for any girl coming from a frum background who is solidly observant, seminary should be a personal choice rather than a decision made based on peer pressure and superficialities like a shidduch résumé.

I agree very much with the letter-writer who said that one needs to weigh the options. But the responses weighed so heavily to one side, that I felt it necessary to shed light on another approach. I’m writing this based on my experiences getting to know the many seminary girls who have stepped foot in our home for the last decade. Here are some benefits of going to a Bais Yaakov Seminary:

  1. Friend groups, Self-definitions and Peer pressure: While a young girl’s friends until now may have been based on proximity and convenience, when a girl goes to seminary, she is hopefully able to redefine herself from a mature and honest place that is in line with her core values and to connect with a group that reflects those values. She’s also able to break free of any assumptions people have of her (or she has of herself) and take on new roles that may have been blocked off in the past. The sister of the genius, the friend of the baalas chesed, the neighbor of the star-davener can now figure out if she wants to excel in those areas independently.
  2. Emotional Development: While it’s been my hope and dream to make seminary obsolete (like kiruv organizations and bikur cholim projects), over the years there has become more of a need for seminary, not less. More girls come from backgrounds that are less than stable, with issues that are no one’s fault — but leave a mark. More and more girls have deep anxiety (no wonder, in today’s fast paced world where bad news travels 100 times faster than good). Some of these girls need a change of scenery, others a new mentor, and still others an option for therapy where they have complete confidentiality and can explore themselves in a way they were never afforded previously. Without major pressures of family obligations and people who disrupt their lives, they can get real work done.
  3. Exposure: whether she’s an OOTer trying to learn the lingo, or an in-towner who may need to learn that Phoenix is a city and not a state, girls become familiar with people and situations that are different from their upbringing. Minhagim for the Yamim Noraim; lifestyles that are far simpler; people for whom visiting the Kosel and kivrei tzaddikim is a regular activity. They’ll see different family styles and pick up what they do — and don’t! — want to copy in their future homes. To some parents this is a minus, but it helps to consider that we no longer live in an era when everyone marries someone else from the shtetl. A girl who has been exposed to (and learned to tolerate) other types of people will make a far better marriage partner and mother.
  4. Avirah d’Eretz Yisrael Machkim: the atmosphere of Eretz Yisrael is fertile breeding ground to develop a person’s mind and middos. Some argue seminary in America is just as good, or even better because it’s cheaper. Well, you get what you pay for. Eretz Yisrael is a place where both practically and metaphysically your eyes are opened to see the Yad Hashem and to live every moment in the Palace of the King.

So by all means, list off the myriad reasons to make sem less of a norm or opt out. Just make sure you weighed both sides.

Mindel Kassorla, Jerusalem


Missing Financial Savvy [The Seminary Conundrum / Issue 948]

Thank you very much for the very informative article on American seminaries in Israel. It should be required reading for any potential seminary girl and her parents by the time she enters ninth grade. Rabbi Greenwald, our former neighbor in Har Nof, and Mrs. Heiman, whose family we know from our years in Chicago, make some very valid points.

As retirees in Yerushalayim, we host seminary girls almost every Shabbos of the school year. We enjoy their company and have many interesting discussions.

Our pet peeve is that many, definitely not all, have a total lack of fiscal responsibility or education. Our prime example is the girl who told us that she was leaving all her possessions in Israel. In addition, she told us that between the time her mother would pick her up from the airport and the time she would arrive home, they would have purchased an entire new wardrobe!

This is extreme, but not an isolated viewpoint when it comes to finances. This girl is living in la-la land and is totally ill-equipped to deal with real life. What will happen when her “wants” are not met and her parents are not there to bail her out? Money can come and go, and it is not certain that she will be able to maintain the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed.

Please, parents, whether rich, middle class, or poor, there is no shame in discussing finances with your children (sons, as well) and preparing for their future. May all of you have much Yiddishe nachas from your children.

Mrs. Faigie Fischler, Har Nof, Yerushalayim


Correction: Scion of Chernobyl and renowned expert in Twersky family history Reb Yitz Twersky graciously shared some important clarifications regarding last week’s “For the Record” column on the spread of Chernobyl. Rav Mottel the Chernobyler Maggid was the first one to assume the Twersky name; his father, the Meor Einayim, did not carry the Twersky surname. The Hornosteipel court was established by the grandson of the Chernobyl Maggid, Rav Mordechai Dov. There is also a discrepancy among the sources regarding the exact immigration year of several of the refugee Rebbes. We regret any errors.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 951)

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