Inbox: Issue 957| April 18, 2023
“Dovi Safier has created a new genre, and a credit to the magazine and the talented author who has made it possible”
Biggest Investment [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 956]
As a shadchan for many years and a native of Cleveland, I found Sruli Besser’s argument on behalf of out-of-town shidduch prospects to be a very true and important point.
When I suggest an out-of-town shidduch, parents will usually tell me that it’s not convenient. My response: I’ve never heard a smart investor decline to invest in a very big deal due to a convenience issue. I think getting your child married is the biggest investment of your life, and so “convenience” should be a very petty issue compared to the great advantages of our out-of-town girls.
Thank you for a great piece.
Tzodek Katz, Lakewood, New Jersey
The Hidden Factors [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 956]
As usual, Yisroel Besser’s prose is a pleasure to read, and his content superb. He related that he had just married off his daughter and bemoaned the fact that so many “in-town” families, which he described as belonging to the tri-city area of Lakewood, Brooklyn and Monsey, simply turn to the next page when presented with an “out-of-town” shidduch. He urged “in-town” parents to consider the special qualities of out-of-town girls.
First off, I believe that Besser used an extra-wide brush in painting his “out-of-town.” I don’t think lumping Montreal (Besser’s hometown), Toronto, and Cleveland together with Atlanta, Boca Raton, and Phoenix is accurate. It’s a lot more nuanced than that. Because of their more old-world European cultural flavor, the former three, while perhaps a bit more provincial, still maintain the “in-town” mentality. The latter three are more definitely “American” and consequently, “out-of-town.”
Any shadchan worth his or her salt will tell you that you match people on the technical specs. The purpose of dating is to verify personality compatibility. On paper, the closer the background and the more the couple has in common, the better chances the shidduch will work and that the marriage will be happy and successful. As such, it is understandable that parents hesitate to complicate the process by adding an “unknown” factor.
Frankly, I believe that out-of-town Bais Yaakov high school teachers are doing their students a great disservice by strongly advocating that they only date Lakewood-based BMG bochurim. We’ve had Baltimore girls in our home who wouldn’t think of dating a Baltimore-based Ner Israel bochur. I think Besser and other, sincere out-of-town promoters would do well to build up their local beis medrash and to encourage their daughters to date local boys. That is the best way to ensure the long-term viability of their communities and would also mitigate their local version of the “shidduch crisis.”
Word to the wise out-of-towners: When the in-town bochur’s family finally does agree to a shidduch with your daughter, make it easy for them. It’s not their fault you live out of town! Don’t stand on principle, be magnanimous. It generally costs the bochur three days of missed learning and hundreds of dollars to come see your daughter. Make the first date(s) in the bochur’s locale. Agree, up front, to make the wedding at an “in-town” hall. Pay for more than your share, immediately and on-going. If you have friends/relatives in the area, make your own arrangements to be put up, etc.
Bottom line, my wife’s girlfriend (from Baltimore!) has the best line for the situation: “Rejection is protection.” I heard a story about a rebbe who told his chassid, “If the other side says ‘no’ that’s when you should make a kiddush. When the shidduch goes through, well then, it’s bashert!”
Chassidish or Not? [Sweetness and Light / Issue 956]
I greatly enjoyed reading your article about Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein shlita in the Pesach edition. I was wondering, however, whether or not Rav Yitzchok’s family were chassidish.
On page 210 you write that the rav of the town where he was born was the son-in-law of the Sefas Emes. The article says “Although not chassidim, the Zilberstein family was connected to their hometown’s rav.” Yet later, in the sidebar on page 222 about his shidduch with the daughter of Rav Elyashiv zt”l it states the “shidduch... was anything but a foregone conclusion... although he had a stellar reputation... the Zilbersteins were simple people from a chassidic, non-rabbinic background.”
So was his family chassidish or not?
Jackson, New Jersey
Gedalia Guttentag responds:
Thank you for your letter. The answer is that the Zilberstein family were chassidim by minhag and lifestyle, but not specifically Gerrer chassidim (although they had a close relationship with the Bendiner Rav, as per the article).
According to his son-in-law Rav Eliezer Roth, Rav Zilberstein followed the minhagim of his home including saying Tikkun on Shavuos night until he married Rav Elyashiv’s daughter; afterwards, he adopted his father-in-law’s minhagim.
The warm connection to Ger came up on Chol Hamoed when Rav Zilberstein visited the Gerrer Rebbe, sharing with him memories of the Bendiner Rav and the Imrei Emes. “Whenever I see little children dressed like Gerrer Chassidim,” he has told his family, “it takes me back to my own childhood surrounded by the atmosphere of Ger and Bendin.”
A Rare Female Hero [Mother of All Yeshivos / Issue 956]
I want to share my heartfelt thanks for the incredible piece that Dovi Safier wrote about Mrs. Jennie Miller Faggen.
I’ve been a Bais Yaakov teacher for more than 20 years and often feel stifled by the lack of books written about heroic frum women, especially ones who were not famous because they were married to gedolim. I plan to incorporate Jennie’s story into my classes and would like to bring my class to visit her kever later this year.
I’d also like to thank Mr. Safier for all of his Mishpacha articles over the last few years, many of which have sparked regular discussions in our home.
With sincere gratitude,
The Very Same Hall [Mother of All Yeshivos / Issue 956]
I would like to thank Mr. Safier for his article. Though having grown up in Philadelphia, I found Mr. Safier’s article about Mrs. Faggen and the city’s Jewish background very informative.
Regarding one special item regarding the visit of Rav Meir Shapiro ztz”l to Philadelphia, he noted that the Rav gave a Shiur at Yeshiva Mishkan Israel on 314 Catherine St. on January 10, 1927. Thirty years later, I was a talmid at Beth Jacob School at 314 Catherine St., and my rebbe, Rabbi Fishbein, asked me to speak about the parshah, parshas Miketz I believe, in the lunch room before the entire school.
Now, decades after that occasion, Mr. Safier has shown me how, in retrospect, I had been zocheh to speak in the very same hall as Rav Meir Shapiro ztz”l did.
Genuine and Personal [Mother of All Yeshivos / Issue 956]
First of all, thank you so much for overall a great magazine to enjoy over Yom Tov. In particular, the comprehensive deep dive into the history of Jennie Miller by Dovi Safier was incredible. I am sure you are being bombarded with responses to that exhaustively researched and fascinating article.
I noticed how the roshei yeshivah of old had so much respect for Jennie as a supporter. While many organizations take out full-page ads in recognition of their benefactors, and bestow gifts to them, etc., to me this pales in comparison — how they would send her monthly letters; not form letters with a facsimile signature, but actual handwritten notes, expressing concern about her well-being and that of her family (especially regarding her niece). They gave shuirim, learned Mishnayos and even said Kaddish. The appreciation seemed so genuine and personal.
May we all gain inspiration to strive to emulate her legacy.
Tzvi Friedman, Jackson, New Jersey
New Fusion [Mother of All Yeshivos / Issue 956]
The Yom Tov issue delivered the usual mix of great articles, features and stories, but you took it to a new level this year with the article on Jennie Miller.
Generally, there are two sorts of styles when it comes to biography — reverential, inspired retelling, in which the writer seeks to share the lessons learned from a personality with readers; and more data-based, academic pieces: less emotion, but great attention to detail.
I don’t know if we’ve ever before seen a fusion of such “hartz” with so much painstaking, thorough research — following a paper trail through history, mining libraries and old news clippings. Academia, but without the kaltkeit (and haughtiness) that often accompanies it.
Dovi Safier has created a new genre, and a credit to the magazine and the talented author who has made it possible.
Give Them a Break [Tug of War / Double Take – Issue 956]
I’m writing in response to last week’s Double Take.
I was strongly bothered and disturbed by this story because I think it’s really not fair to Nechami that Tzivia always gets to host Faigy and Shuey. Especially now that she has a new son-in-law, Chaim. Yes, maybe he is not ready to lead the Seder but if not now, when? Will he ever learn? Will Faigy and Shuey have to be stuck at Tzivia’s house forever?!
As a mother of ten wonderful children, I can testify that there is nothing as special as having all your children at the Seder together and this is Nechami’s chance to finally have her full family! Also it is not nice especially to Faigy, who is so disappointed that she has not seen her brothers in years. Why can’t Tzivia just give them a break and let Faigy see her siblings and have just one Yom Tov with her whole family?
Frankly, I believe Tzivia is being a little selfish and unreasonable.
Sincerely hoping for change,
Maximize the Benefit [Tug of War / Double Take – Issue 956]
Thanks for all the good you do! I have been reading your Double Take stories. They are enjoyable, but even more so, a tangible way for us to sensitize ourselves to the fact that there are two real sides to a story.
When discussing one of the articles with a family member, she commented to me that she reads the stories and then tries to see whose side she agrees with. It felt like such a lost opportunity — instead of increasing her appreciation of the complexities of an argument and the subjective realities of each side, reading the stories only increased her stance of division and partiality.
I realized from her comment that other readers may also be walking away without gaining all there is to be taken from these articles. If I may humbly suggest, I believe that adding on some thinking prompts and questions would increase mental engagement with and maximize the benefit of these articles.
Some possible prompts/questions:
How could ____ express herself to ____ in a way she could be heard?
What is ___ not understanding about ____’s situation?
What compromise do you think might work?
What might help here?
What could they have done differently?
What can be done now?
What does ___ not realize?
What is a point they can both agree on?
Can you apply this situation to something that happened in your own life, and imagine what the other person’s experience might be like?
I truly hope you consider my suggestion.
Passing Up Eternity [American Dreams / Calligraphy Fiction Supplement]
I don’t usually take the time to write letters to the editor, especially not on Isru Chag doubled as Erev Shabbos, but I somehow find this too important. I’m writing about Dov Haller’s American Dreams. I especially don’t want to spend time writing to fictional characters but I know that Haller’s stories are usually spot on in nailing the most relatable scenario of the day. So this is to all the Dovis, Peninas, Bassies, and Ushys out there.
Just as we spend insane amounts of money to keep the mitzvos of Pesach, are we not obligated to go to the opposite ends of earth to avoid hurting our parents? Or at the very least, are we not obligated to go to American Dream for a few hours? Go Landmans! Go Nulmans! I’m sure it didn’t work out perfectly for you either, but you did the perfect thing by showing up.
I live in Israel. Our budget doesn’t let us consider a trip back to the States for Yom Tov. I have only one sibling living here, with whom I have major differences, and spending a precious day of Chol Hamoed with them is far from my first choice. But it is my first choice — because I so badly want to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim, at least in some small way, from afar. I want to be able to give my parents the pleasure of knowing that we chose to spend time together — a parent’s greatest joy.
The trip itself made no sense — not weather-wise, not travel-wise, and no, we could not agree on a place that made everyone happy. But nothing made less sense than passing up on such an opportunity to earn not only eternity but a long life.
May we all merit a long life. And may that long life be one in which our children deem us worthy enough for their time and trips.
P.S. A word about the second family chat for siblings sans parents. Please tell me that Haller is wrong and this is not common among children. I’ve heard of risk-taking and playing with fire but to actually play with your mother’s beating heart? What is the worst-case scenario that can happen if she were to find out? The best case scenario — maybe she’ll not say a word (Chavie-style) but that moment of deep hurt — that itself is the worst case scenario. (Children of divorced parents, we know you have your second chat so as NOT to hurt your parents but for the express purpose of kibbud av v’eim. For example, “Who’s going to Daddy first days and who’s going to Mom? Let’s make sure both are covered.” But for the rest of us — do we really have a legit excuse to play so dangerously?)
Pittsburgh Legend [Perspective / Issue 955]
Thank you to Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Zev Ginsberg for that touching story that he wrapped up his article with.
The unidentified Jewish American soldier mentioned was the late Mr. Abe Butler, the patriarch of a beautiful frum family, and Pittsburgh Orthodox Jewish communal builder.
It is truly incredible that his landing on Normandy on D-Day isn’t the most noteworthy part of his WWII experience, and the story of the hug(s) is one which everyone I knew growing up in Pittsburgh knew, and knew who it was about.
His son, the Honorable Judge Daniel, the friend of Gary Torgow mentioned by Rabbi Ginzberg, has actually been profiled in these pages, and is a legend in his own right.
On a completely separate note, kudos to the Kichels for the subtle but devastating critique on our attitudes towards the menial workers we benefit from and also like to complain about. I have heard these sorts of things spoken, and it’s always worth keeping in mind that the grueling work and low wages of those providing those vital jobs is a closer representative of a form of servitude, than those of us whose schedules are inconvenienced.
Quit the Party [Inbox / Issue 954]
Recently the magazine printed a letter — pretty much a complaint by a newlywed — about the cost of “living” that has begun to threaten the Ramat Eshkol “party.”
That Shabbos we had guests over, and so we had a roundtable discussion about the letter, going through it one line at a time.
Here are our conclusions: If “Eretz Hakodesh” means so much to you, there are many other places to move to. Ramat Shlomo. Beit Shemesh. Beitar. Neve Yaakov. Telzstone. Moshav Mattisyahu/Kiryat Sefer. And on.
And here are some financial guidelines for those who want to do the Eretz Hakodesh thing.
- Prioritize what is your purpose here, and live accordingly. The time will come when you and your spouse decide what the next stage of your life will contain, but if you’re doing the kollel years, do the kollel life. They complement each other, allowing for the maximizing of this short, one-time opportunity.
- Cut your expenses. Many people living here skimp on their fleishigs, eating less of it throughout the week. Go for walks with your spouse instead of going out to eat. Eat homemade pizza-pita instead of Waffle Bar and Shmaltz. Make your cholent with chicken (wings!) instead of meat.
A change of scenery can mean going for a walk somewhere you haven’t gone before, rather than going to Netanya and staying in Galei Sanz. Find out about the neighborhood sales instead of shopping at makolets. Rent smaller apartments.
Walk instead of bussing. Bus instead of taxiing. Go simple with the clothing. Simplify simchahs. Use timers for appliances and wear a sweater instead of blasting the heat. Buy a filter pitcher instead of bottled water. Find out about all the chesed and free help available.
- Simple living can actually be better for your new marriage than fancy new furniture. Find out what you can do to improve your apartment’s space usage yourself. You can do lots of things around the house instead of requiring a repairman.
- Keep it simple. Israel is for lowering our standards. Don’t try to make Israel into America. (No, I am not one of those who believe that Israel is better than America — it has its issues too.)
From my one bedroom (made into 2 somehow) apartment’s roundtable, somewhere near Ramat Eshkol
Correction: The article “Beyond the Biggest,” Ari and Ari’s Mesorah Quest piece about Dubai [Issue #955], went to print with a map of the Middle East that does not reflect Mishpacha’s policy. We apologize for the poor choice.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 957)
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