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Inbox: Issue 954

We have organizations focused on easing the financial burden of everything else imaginable, but not for mental health.
Why Support the Clause? [Court Order / Issue 953]

With all the animosity floating around about the proposed judicial reforms, it’s hard to get a nuanced explanation of what is being proposed, and which aspects are upsetting to the opposition. But it’s clear that the “override clause” is a central component of the proposed judicial reforms. In your interview with MK Gafni, he boasted, “By the way, I demanded the override clause in coalition talks with the Likud 20 years ago....”

One of the features of the “override clause” is that the legislature can override any ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court with a simple majority vote in the Knesset.

But what is so confusing to the American chareidi community is the introduction of this override clause. This is because introducing an equivalent of the “override clause” in the US judicial system would basically mean that popular opinion would override the law, and we would have nowhere to appeal rulings issued against our values when protected by the law.

Recently, our community benefited greatly from numerous rulings by the Supreme Court and will likely need more in the future. This cycle is due to the fact that legislators draft laws based on what they hear from their constituents (aka popular opinion), and often these laws run afoul of the Constitution and the religious freedoms it provides.

Potential laws regulating bris milah, shechitah, the curriculum in chadarim and Bais Yaakovs, the definition of marriage and death, and when our yeshivos, camps, and shuls can be opened will not be drafted based on true science and medicine, but will be driven by the moment’s popular opinion. So the Supreme Court is the address for citizens and groups to appeal these new laws, and where the latest trends in popular opinion are held in check with the land’s Constitution.

Introducing an override clause would mean that the legislators, who are driven by the moment’s popular opinion, can override the Supreme Court’s decisions with a simple majority, essentially erasing the entire benefit of having a Supreme Court upholding the Constitution.

The examples MK Gafni provides as failures of the Israeli Supreme Court, i.e. allowing chometz in hospitals and allowing tax deductions for missionary groups, point to the challenges of balancing a democracy with “preserving the Jewish character of the state,” which is not going to be solved with an override clause.

Please explain to us why we American Jews should support an override clause, when the equivalent of an override clause in the USA would probably result in unappealable laws banning bris milah, shechitah, closing our yeshivos, forcing us to pull the plug on patients, and who knows what else. Our experience tells us that an “override clause” is probably the last tool we’d ever want to utilize to protect our lifestyle.

D. Steinberg,

Monsey, NY


Make It a Communal Priority [To the Highest Degree / Issue 953]

Thank you for your article on Dr. Mandelman. The chesed and the genuine care for another Yid manifested by today’s frum network of local, national, and international organizations is unparalleled in the world and possibly within our own history. We have played catch-up in the mental health field, but no doubt will soon be, if we are not already, the innovators.

In order to keep providing care, we must establish organizations focused on responsibly easing the financial burden of mental health care for families that need it. We have organizations focused on easing the financial burden of everything else imaginable, but not for mental health.

Every menahel, principal, rosh yeshivah, rav, and rebbetzin are dealing with mental health regularly. In my capacity as the president of a Bikur Cholim serving one of the fastest growing younger communities on the East Coast, we saw calls for mental health eclipse — by far — the calls for help with traditional health issues.

Now we are also becoming more aware of the crushing financial burden mental health care can place on families. These are not one-off calls for help — they are happening every day in every neighborhood.

It is time. A national organization must accept the cause. It needs to be national because the costs will be too large, and the clinical expertise too deep, for individual neighborhoods to support.

Your article emphasizes Dr. Mandelman’s focus on a practice guided “entirely by diagnostically informed intervention,” and “a methodology to ensure proper diagnosis.” This may seem obvious, but for reasons not understandable to many, it has simply not been adopted and institutionalized in the past.

If “clinical diagnosis” is possible and implemented, it can be the foundation for an organization to begin the responsible intake and to provide the financial support and follow-up these families need.

Somebody needs to figure this out.

Dovid Steinberg


Transformative Power [Let’s Make a Deal / Issue 953]

I am writing to express my deep appreciation for the recent article “Let’s Make a Deal” published in your magazine. As a Zevulun, I was moved by the author’s thoughtful and engaging prose.

Reading about the program’s impact on others reaffirmed my belief in its transformative power. I was reminded of the miracles that I myself witnessed while participating in the program.

I was at my wit’s end when my landlord kicked me out of my apartment with no warning. I had nowhere to go and no idea what to do. But as luck would have it, a friend told me about the Smach Zevulun program.

I joined the program, not really knowing what to expect. But to my surprise, within just a few short days, I had found an amazing apartment that came fully furnished with all the amenities. As if that wasn’t enough, the legal troubles that had been weighing me down for months started disappearing.

The author’s attention to detail and thorough research truly captured the essence of the program and its significance to those involved. Her ability to weave together personal stories with factual information created a truly compelling narrative that left a lasting impact on me.



Look, Hitler Failed [The Moment / Issue 952]

It was beautiful to see Mishpacha share a picture of young cheder boys dressed in Yerushalmi garb participating in a “Happy Hafganah.” While the children may be dressed as little Yerushalmis, these are actually children from Talmud Torah Toras Shalom in Ramat Beit Shemesh A, where the student body comprises approximately 50 percent Anglo families.

Any child who has attended this cheder would instantly recognize the words on these signs — the words of Rav Elimelech m’Lizhensk — as the mantra of the cheder’s menahel, Rav Yisroel Koritz.

Approximately ten years ago, I introduced my grandfather, R’ Reuven Yaakov Lewkowicz, to Rav Koritz shortly after my boys started attending the cheder.

My grandparents, R’ Reuven Yaakov and Miriam Mindel Lewkowicz, were Holocaust survivors who became longtime residents of Brooklyn. My grandfather would commute daily from Flatbush to Boro Park, where he volunteered at Bikur Cholim, helping individuals in need, a mission he kept up until he died at the age of 94.

I recall accompanying my grandfather on that commute from Flatbush to Boro Park. At one point we were stuck behind a row of school buses on 14th Avenue and a sea of little cheder children were emptying from these buses. My grandfather turned to me and said, “Look Avi, Hitler failed!”

The meeting between my grandfather and Rav Koritz took place in the early years of the cheder, before even a single class had graduated. My grandfather connected with Rav Koritz and the cheder’s mission and was eager to help him financially. Today the Cheder sits on a beautiful campus in RBS A and bears the name of my grandparents. It is the ultimate testament to my grandfather’s powerful words: “Look Avi, Hitler failed!”

Avi Kamionski,



Impossible Market [Inbox / Issue 952]

After all the mazel tovs and good wishes at my l’chayim, the first thing people said to me was, “You’re planning to start out in Israel? Good luck finding a good apartment for a good price. The market is crazy.”

This surprised me because the first person who told me this is one of the wealthiest women in my community. I thought to myself, “If she thinks the prices are high, I’m doomed.”

Soon after, my chassan and I got busy trying to find a place to live. We were not looking for anything fancy, just wanted a nice simple apartment for a young couple. We figured, if we didn’t expect something so nice, we wouldn’t have to pay too much. Boy were we wrong.

The market is out of hand. A simple two-bedroom unfurnished apartment was way overpriced, and I couldn’t believe that people were getting that much support from their parents to afford this market.

Then I realized how wrong I was. Most people weren’t. They are getting very generous support from both sides, as my chassan (now husband) and I both are, but even that does not fully enable them to live in these apartments, because you still need money for other things. And if you are not yet working because you’re still in college, that doesn’t work.

Finally, we were able to find a small apartment slightly out of the American area that was affordable. I asked my friends how they do it. How they manage to live in Ramat Eshkol and pay the other bills. Their answer? It went something like this. “I found a job that if I work starting at eight a.m., have a five-minute break at three, and then a half-hour break at seven, and then work until nine, I will have enough money for the apartment.”

These aren’t girls that have big families to support. They just got married a few months ago. They haven’t had time to get to know their husbands. The only time they talk to their spouse is on Shabbos. The craziest part is, it’s not like the apartment was half the price but then jacked up 5,000 shekel more because of a big renovation. Nope. It’s the same apartment it was before; the landlords just got greedy.

Do the landlords realize what they’re doing to these young couples? These couples are sacrificing their relationships with their husbands just because their landlords want more money.

Last week I saw a friend of mine at the store. It was ten o’clock at night. She told me that she had come straight from work. I asked her, “When do you make dinner?” She said, “Oh, I don’t. There’s no time. My husband just starves or eats cereal every night.”

I laughed, because I thought she was joking. She didn’t laugh back because she wasn’t.

Is this the kind of life we have to live just to be able to live in Eretz Hakodesh? I know countless couples moving back after Pesach because of the unrealistic rent demands. Don’t tell me it’s because of inflation. Don’t tell me it’s because a lot of Ramat Eshkol is under construction so there are limited apartments available, and supply and demand don’t balance out. There are still plenty of apartments available. Inflation is not 5,000 shekel more than the usual price plus a $15,000 furniture package.

My husband and I would like to move into a slightly bigger apartment to be able to host guests, but until the prices go down, that won’t be possible.

Hoping for a more affordable life here,

An American living in Israel


Kollel with Mexican Flavor [Live and Learn / Issue 952]

Mishpacha is to be congratulated for such a well-researched and inclusive article on community kollelim worldwide. There was a statement quoted from Rabbi Aaron Kotler, however, that deserves comment.

The 60s saw an emptying of out-of-town America, when the children of Holocaust survivors came to yeshivos in the East, like Torah Vodaath, and never returned to their home communities. Rav Shneur Kotler literally saved out-of-town America when he started the kollelim in Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles, et al.

However, the kollel in Mexico City was started by Rav Avraham Baddouch in 1977, with six yungeleit (I was one of them), including the rosh kollel, Rav Dovid Shwekey, from Mir-Flatbush.

In fact, when Ezra (Zuri) Ashkenazi and Yosef (Pepe) Cohen approached Rav Baddouch, then living in Monsey, to come to their community, it wasn’t to start a kollel but to open a yeshivah elementary school for their children. Rav Baddouch convinced them that in order to maintain a supply of teachers in such a faraway location, he would need to start a kollel, and the wives would be the teachers in the nascent yeshivah. They took the bait and the rest is history.

When we arrived to open the doors of Kolel Aram Soba (named for the Jewish community of Aleppo, Syria), there were less than 60 children in Keter Torah, the local yeshivah serving the community. We instituted chalav Yisrael and a new shechitah, and Rav Baddouch indeed started a new yeshivah, then called Emek, and later the first girls’ high school and a boys’ mesivta.

Rav Baddouch was first a talmid of Rav Moshe Schneider — himself a talmid of the Chofetz Chaim — in London, and then learned for ten years in Chevron, Yerushalayim. Rav Baddouch’s unbending standards of chinuch established the strong backbone of Torah education that is still growing in Mexico.

Today, there are thousands of children in chareidi yeshivos and hundreds of yungeleit, mostly homegrown, populating around 30 kollelim. It is the norm for a bochur to learn in Israel for a few years and to marry and join a kollel when he returns before entering any type of livelihood.

But there is a Lakewood connection in Mexico. Rav Malkiel Kotler’s son married Rav Baddouch’s granddaughter, the daughter of Rav Shmuel Baddouch, who assumed his father’s position upon his untimely passing.

Elchonon Nakdimen,

Monsey, NY


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 954)

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