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Inbox: Issue 955

“There is a general culture of disdain for Americans in general, and religious Americans in particular in the Embassy”


Life-Changing Therapy [Inbox / Issue 954]

I appreciate Dovid Steinberg’s letter about the importance of financial assistance for therapy.

Having seen firsthand how therapy by top-notch clinicians can change lives, it’s painful to imagine how people with limited means may remain stuck in challenging situations due to a lack of funds. An expert therapist can transform the life of a person facing anxiety, depression, the repercussions of trauma, addiction, etc., and thereby transform the lives of their family members. Conversely, individuals facing mental health issues without access to appropriate help don’t just suffer alone — their loved ones suffer as well.

For nearly a decade, I’ve dreamed of founding an organization to cover the cost of mental health services for individuals with limited means. Having worked closely with the leadership of a leading non-profit for years, along with a background in marketing, I have some of the building blocks. However, an organization that responsibly and adequately provides financial assistance for mental health expenses would involve complexities that must have the proper direction from reputable mental health professionals and rabbanim. Needless to say, financial support from the community at large and specifically from individuals who can substantially support the cause is crucial.

If you are interested in supporting this endeavor by contributing your expertise in the field, through financial support, or in any other way, please get in touch with me at mentalhealthfinancialhelp@gmail.com.

Additionally, if you need financial assistance for therapy, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Although no organization has been built yet, and financial assistance will not be provided at this point, understanding your need will encourage us to move forward as we attempt to build one, and allow us to share concrete examples of the need with individuals who can financially support this endeavor. All inquiries will be kept 100 percent confidential, and no identifying details will be shared in the quest for funding. Please feel free to reach out anonymously as well.

With tefillos for all those suffering in silence, and hopes that they find adequate support and healing speedily,

C. S.


They Just Don’t Care [Keeping US Citizens Out / Issue 954]

Anyone who has gone to the US Embassy in Jerusalem can tell you exactly what the source of the problem is. The last line in your article states: “The current crisis has made one thing clear — the American constituency in Israel is being badly underserved by their home country’s representatives there.”

The people working at the US Embassy most certainly do not represent our home country. They are by and large not American citizens, have no sympathy for American citizens, and definitely have no sensitivity to the special issues faced by chareidi Americans residing in Israel.

There is a general culture of disdain for Americans in general, and religious Americans in particular in the Embassy, dating back to the years when the consulate was located in Arab East Jerusalem. The tone of nastiness and superiority begins at first contact, at the entrance booth, and continues on from there.

As Americans living in Israel, we should not need to dread a visit to our own embassy. A complete overhaul of the personnel working there, an effort to put a more positive attitude in place, plus a reexamination of the appointment-setting system would go a long way toward making the US Embassy a place that actually serves its constituency.

S. Lewis, Jerusalem


The Warmth Is Still There [Class Act / Issue 954]

I greatly enjoyed reading Barbara Bensoussan’s article “Class Act” about Rabbi Armo Kuessous.

Almost 40 years ago, I had the zechus to learn in the same yeshivah as Rabbi Keussous twice — first in Scranton and later in Montreal. But we were never classmates, as he was a few years older than I.

When I was a high school student in Scranton Yeshiva, Rabbi Kuessous (then known to all only by his first name of “Armo”) was learning in Scranton’s beis medrash. Later, after I graduated high school, I joined Montreal Yeshiva’s beis medrash program as a first-year bochur while Rabbi Keussous, who arrived in Montreal one year before me, was an older bochur in the same yeshivah.

What was Rabbi Kuessous like in his younger years? He was certainly popular and well liked. But he was a lot more than that. To say the least, he was always serious about his learning. At the same time, when he found time to play hockey (which, as a Canadian, was a passion of his), he managed to be quite earnest about the game while never sacrificing his natural friendliness to all players on both teams.

Perhaps most importantly, he had a warm and engaging personality in his daily life that instinctively drew people to him. He was everyone’s best friend, even if that person was a young high school student or a first-year beis medrash bochur.

Seeing pictures of Rabbi Kuessous today, I noticed that, almost 40 years later, his hair may be slightly grayer — but his warmth, positivity, smile, and sincerity have retained their youthful vigor and appeal. As a result, a generation of tinokos shel bais rabban, and by extension all of Klal Yisroel, have greatly benefited. And for that, we are all greatly indebted to Rabbi Kuessous.

Jonathan Rosenstock

Suffern, NY


Apples and Oranges [Inbox / Issue 954]

In last week’s Inbox, D. Steinberg from Monsey questioned the judicial reforms in Israel by comparing them to the US.

Disclaimer: I am no expert. I am not even particularly interested in the mess of Israeli politics. But as a citizen of Israel with a basic knowledge of the system, I can tell you that the US and Israeli governmental bodies may seem comparable, but in fact have fundamental differences that make it impossible to try and draw conclusions from one to the other.

Here are two such differences regarding the Judiciary:

  1. Israeli High Court Justices are appointed by each other, giving the Court a solid protection from changing societal tides. In the US, Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the president — who in turn is elected by the people. So even while Justices can serve for life, their appointments are of a much more “democratic” nature.
  2. Israeli has no constitution — judges do not decide cases based on a set of guiding principles and precedents, but rather based on their own preference (and as stated above, their appointments do not reflect the people’s own preference either). The United States does have a constitution, and while this document is subject to interpretation, it provides a built-in check on the Judicial branch, in that no matter how radical it goes one way or the other, there are rules it must adhere to.

To take one piece of Israeli politics and then question it based on the US government’s model, is like taking a piece of your kid’s 20-piece Har Sinai puzzle and then asking why it doesn’t fit into your own thousand-piece puzzle of the Grand Canyon.

Israel’s proposed judicial reforms are a subject of intense debate. But when the American and Israeli systems are so different, please do not create more confusion and doubt by mixing apples and oranges in hopes of making sense of them.

M.K., Jerusalem


The Landlord’s View [Inbox / Issue 954]

As a current tenant and landlord in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood, I wanted to weigh in on the recent exchange of opinions on this topic.

Some points to ponder:

  • Landlords are not greedy for asking rental prices that people are willing to pay. In general, housing markets follow standard economic models of supply and demand. If many people all want to live in the same neighborhood, prices will go up.

While tenants may feel that the landlords are to blame for rising prices, in reality, those tenants themselves are helping drive up the prices by insisting on living in this specific area.

  • As tenants, you may not be aware of the effect of recent economic changes on your landlord’s finances. Rising interest rates have significantly affected mortgages. When we purchased an apartment a couple of years ago, we carefully calculated our monthly mortgage payment against the expected rental income. When our mortgage went up 33 percent in one year, we checked the current going rate for an apartment like ours, and determined that we would raise the rent for our tenants.

We tried to be menschlich and raised the rent to the conservative end of the going rate, thereby taking a loss on our investment every month. Please don’t judge.

  • A victim mentality is not usually too helpful. We all have choices to make, and shifting blame is a cop-out. When faced with a less-than-ideal situation, each person must choose their top priorities.

Some people may decide that being in Eretz Yisrael is so important, that even if they can’t afford Ramat Eshkol, they will move to some of the many other neighborhoods with chutznik families (think: RBS, Beitar, Givat Ze’ev, Neve Yaakov, etc.). Some may decide that living davka in Ramat Eshkol is so important to them that they are willing to work long hours to make it happen. Some may decide that the financial toll is too much and will move back to America.

As a tenant, I definitely don’t love the recent rent increases. However, we made a conscious choice that the convenience and community is worth enough to us to work long hours and budget in other areas.

Owning your choice can provide freedom to enjoy your stay in the neighborhood, even if it comes at a price.

L. W., Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem


Unrealistic Expectations [Inbox / Issue 954]

I was dismayed by the attitude of your letter writer last week complaining about the high rents in Ramat Eshkol. She writes “the landlords just got greedy” and then questions “do the landlords realize what they’re doing to these young couples?”

Surely the writer can’t expect landlords to take into account the domestic arrangements and working practices of potential tenants. What sense of entitlement are we encouraging in our children, that they feel that they must have their time in Israel and woe betide anyone who stands in their way?

Why must landlords reduce their rents so that young couples can have their stay in Eretz Yisrael without having to work too hard to do so? Since when can Torah only be learned on a honeymoon trip in Eretz Yisrael? What happened to all the yeshivos and batei medrash in chutz l’Aretz?

The writer describes young women working long hours and asks, “Is this the kind of life we have to lead just to be able to live in Eretz Yisrael?” Yes actually, for some it is, and if you can’t afford it without considerable support from both parents and working to the bone yourself… then perhaps you should go home and let your husband learn in a beis medrash somewhere in Lakewood, New York, Los Angeles, or Phoenix. It really doesn’t matter where, because if he’s serious in his learning, any daas Torah will confirm that he won’t suffer just because you can’t afford to live in Ramat Eshkol.

Unfortunately, we are all guilty of inculcating this sense of entitlement in our children. To be clear, it’s not really about the importance of starting off married life with a kollel husband if you can afford it. It’s about the lack of gratitude for the sacrifice being made by parents and the expectations we have nurtured in our youth.

A Parent, London, UK


The OCD Misconception [To the Highest Degree / Issue 953]

Thank you for the excellent article about Dr. Shmuel Mandelman’s amazing work in addressing the mental health needs for the frum community.

Dr. Mandelman mentioned that while OCD is found in the general population, it “can be compounded by an emphasis on halachic precision.” I would add that some individuals as well as mental health providers have the misconception that when a frum person experiences OCD about halachah, it is the minutiae of the halachic system that are to blame for their psychopathology. In addition to running counter to the principle of “deracheha darchei noam,” this view is a distortion of how OCD actually works.

As I have seen throughout my clinical work, OCD is a condition in which a person is obsessively preoccupied with uncertainty in a particular area of life, usually an area that is meaningful for them. As such, it’s understandable why frum individuals with OCD would be plagued by the uncertainty of whether they are properly observing a particular halachah.

In fact, research has shown that the rates of OCD in the frum community are similar to those found in the general population. However, frum sufferers’ symptoms often manifest themselves in their halachic observance. So OCD, rather than frumkeit, is to blame for their religious obsessions, and were they not observant, they’d likely experience OCD in a different area of life.

Rabbi Dr. Barry Eichenbaum, PsyD, Clifton, NJ


That Makes Sense! [To the Highest Degree / Issue 953]

I enjoyed the feature on Dr.  Shmuel Mandelman. But I felt his wife Chavie deserves more credit.

As soon as he mentioned who he was married to, I thought, “Aha, that makes sense!” Chavie always conducted herself with such class and stood out among the class with the respect and kindness she always showed everyone.

I remember once the school gave notice we should bring extra snacks to play practice since it would be a whole day of rehearsing. The only girl who brought snacks was Chavie. I stood on the side and watched as she distributed a snack to every girl who asked, because she was too kind to say no. Chavie also had the best notes and never said no when girls asked to borrow them. I’m not surprised by her current role.

Thanks for the great interview and a great magazine.

S. R., formerly of Bais Yaakov Detroit


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 955)

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