Inbox: Issue 958| April 25, 2023
“I have learned that I am enough. We are a real family, even if that family looks different from the ideal model with two parents”
What He Got Wrong [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 956]
Unfortunately, the letter writer who responded to Yisroel Besser’s piece about out-of-town shidduchim lacks a very basic understanding of what it means to exist outside of the Tristate area. Luckily for him, with this attitude he doesn’t have to worry about any out-of-town shidduchim being suggested for his family.
For the understanding of others, please allow me to clear up a few misconceptions:
- It is correct that out of town is not all the same. North America is big and diverse. But every shul, school, chassidus, and social group also has its own subculture. It may sometimes be worth understanding where a prospective shidduch is coming from, and parents can and do make inquiries. The same can be applied to various out-of-town communities. You can find out what a girl’s upbringing was like. We are not aliens, and we don’t live on the moon.
- Don’t blame teachers for “advocating that girls only date BMG bochurim” as they do no such thing. The vast majority of yeshivah bochurim in the US head to Lakewood to learn while pursuing shidduchim. With few exceptions, most out-of-town yeshivos do not cater to bochurim past first or second year beis medrash. Truthfully, even “more modern” and “working” boys gravitate to NY/NJ when they are looking for a shidduch. I can barely fill one hand counting the shomer Shabbos boys of marriageable age presently living in my out-of-town community (and there are many more girls of the same age).
- We already put forth major efforts to make it easier for in-town bochurim to date our daughters. Having the first date, and many subsequent dates, in the bochur’s locale is standard procedure. (By the way, do you know how much it costs for a young woman to get from any commercial airport to Lakewood, NJ without a local parent to pick her up?)
Additionally, almost all weddings of girls from our community take place in convenient (ha, for the in-town side) and practical Lakewood, NJ. No need to fret about traveling out of town for a wedding. We pay plenty for lodging and travel for our side, make all our own arrangements, and solve our own problems without imposing upon in-town mechutanim.
- We did not outlandishly choose to move away from the sensible and default Tristate area. Most of us ended up out of town because of some combination of parnassah plus roots and/or opportunity. We are all in galus. We are here because Hashem put us here. May He bring us all back to our true home soon!
A Realistic Out-of-Towner
Accommodate the Other Side [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 956]
We would like to agree with Yisroel Besser: Doing an out-of-town shidduch was a good choice for us. Baruch Hashem, our daughter-in-law is a quality girl.
When the shidduch was suggested, the easy reply was, “we don’t see ourselves flying out for a wedding.” Their response: We plan on making the wedding in Brooklyn. That was a game-changer. Out-of-towners should be open to accommodating the “other side” in this manner.
Another suggestion is to update the resume when applicable. If you know a certain family requested a resume, update it with references who know both sides. It’s a big plus when there are references that the other side knows and whose information will be trusted.
Happy In-Town In-Laws
Less Clueless than You Think [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 956]
As an out-of-town girl nearing the age of shidduchim, I was interested in hearing what Rabbi Besser had to pitch about us. While I very much appreciated and identified with some points, there were several that, from the viewpoint of the girl herself, aren’t exactly accurate.
Just as a general statement, the same way every in-town girl is a different individual, the same goes for us. Please don’t dump us in a box of “humble, behind-on-trends, kiruv-involved girls,” because you probably wouldn’t want us to dump in-towners in the “snobby, materialistic, living-in-a-bubble” box either.
Regarding some of the points made: In today’s world of Jewish magazines, online shopping, and a broad network of in-town friends and family, many (and in my crowd, most) out-of-town girls and women do dress “with that mega-precise accuracy of in-towners.” I live in a city that’s considered out-of-town by all standards, and believe me, we definitely know exactly which brands are today or yesterday — the only difference is that we don’t feel pressured to buy them. (Yet some girls choose to anyway because that’s who we are — your average fashionable girls.)
Also, some of us may be humble, but I don’t see any significant difference in that area compared to in-town girls. If anything, we tend to be more confident and independent, since we were given the space and attention to really develop and get to know our true selves and get involved in the community.
As was beautifully quoted in the Calligraphy supplement, “prejudice is born of ignorance.” The same way I had certain assumptions about in-towners before I became close friends with many of them, it would do some good to get to know an out-of-towner before deciding that there’s anything different about us!
It’s 2023 — we all know exactly what goes on in town. We just have the luxury of choosing whether or not to bring it into our cities.
Into a Full Bar Mitzvah [Learning Curve on Kiruv / Issue 956]
The article about the Traveling Chassidim in the Pesach Edition was fantastic — a fun read, inspiring, and empowering to see the difference a few men with an idea and some energy can make in the world.
After reading it over Pesach, I happened to meet a sweet young baalas teshuvah who had just begun her journey during Covid. As we were schmoozing, I asked her to tell me some things that really pushed her along in her journey. She told me a couple of things, and then her eyes lit up and she goes, “OMG — and the Traveling Chassidim!” She went on and on, and you could see what electricity those guys pump into the people experiencing Shabbos with them. I smiled as she described it as, “They turned a normal Shabbos into a full bar mitzvah! It was crazy!”
She then told me that she became close to one of the men’s wives and they invited her to a Shabbos in Montreal. She took them up on the offer and could not stop raving about the warmth, the respect in their home, and their “awesome cooking” (that was describing the yapchik).
Wishing lots of hatzlachah to those making a big difference in Klal Yisrael,
Anonymous from Toronto
Two-Way Inspiration [Learning Curve on Kiruv / Issue 956]
It was 12 years ago, after reading about the Traveling Chassidim in Mishpacha (“On the Road with a Guitar and a Shtreimel,” Issue 348), when I realized they were the answer I was looking for.
For years, a year-end four-day retreat at a camp upstate was the highlight of the kiruv efforts of our school, Ezra Academy (featured in Mishpacha, Issue 677). Yet things were beginning to feel stale, and the atmosphere seemed to be lacking… something. I knew we had to try them out. So we invited the Traveling Chassidim, they were a hit, and they’ve been part of our retreat ever since.
But something else happened about five years ago that drove home the point that you never know who’s being mashpia on whom. For the last eight years, one of the highlights of the retreat has been a Grand Siyum by the members of the “Ezra Kollel.” This is a group of boys who come a half hour early to school (!) two mornings a week to learn Gemara with their very talented rebbi, Rabbi Elie Geller. Well over a dozen boys attend regularly enough to qualify as being mesayemim. It’s truly an astonishing sight.
Five years ago one of the Traveling Chassidim asked to speak at one of the Shabbos seudos. He described how inspired he was the previous year when these teenagers made their siyum and how he began to question himself. “I go to work every day, and I work long hours, but how come they can make a siyum and I can’t? What’s my excuse?” he had thought. “So,” he told us, “I made a commitment last year that I too would make a siyum at the next Ezra retreat.” And then he pulled out a Gemara and indeed made his own siyum!
Reb Aryeh and his chevreh have been our partners for the last 12 years, and we can’t wait for next month when we’ll be together again to inspire and be inspired.
Rabbi Moshe Friedler
That’s Exactly What it Means [Tug of War / Double Take – Issue 956]
With all the fantastic material in your Pesach issue, I can’t believe I’m writing in response to a fictional column, but the Double Take account featuring the divorcee and her mechuteneste hit close to home.
Nechami asks, “Just because I’m not in crisis, does that mean I can’t spend Yom Tov with my daughter?” Umm. Yes. That’s exactly what it means.
When families are in crisis, their nearest and dearest need to step up to the plate, even if circumstances are less than ideal, or in some cases, not ideal at all. If your daughter has a problem going to her mother-in-law for Pesach, that’s something she’ll need to discuss in depth with her husband and rav. But as her mother, you should be commending Faigy and taking pride in her for rising to the occasion to support her family (yes, by now it’s her family too).
Is it disappointing? Certainly. But can we be sensitive to the fact that there are people suffering a great deal more than disappointment?
I was so infuriated that Nechami’s perspective was even given a voice — are there really people out there who can’t empathize with a woman making Yom Tov alone? Yet maybe I should thank you. I now have a deeper appreciation for my own parents and siblings who cheer me on and tell me I’m amazing, even when supporting my in-law family “in crisis” means that I miss out on family time with them.
We Can Be Enough [Tug of War / Double Take – Issue 956]
While reading this story, I felt so uncomfortable with Tzivia’s angle as the “nebach” single mother in crisis.
I, too, am a single parent. I’ve been on my own for a few years with two little girls, and Yom Tov is always a hard time. I don’t have any big boys to help schlep and clean, nor to lead the Seder.
But I have learned that I am enough. We are a real family, even if that family looks different from the ideal model with two parents.
What good does it do my children to see me feeling like a victim of circumstances? What good does it do to tell them that we are a broken unit unless Daddy comes back? To convey the message that there is always a minus or lack, as long as there isn’t a man in the house?
To all the single parents out there: We are enough. We can make Yom Tov into a joy for our kids. We can invite guests, involve our kids in the preps with happy music blasting, create new family rituals and memories that aren’t tainted with “how it should have been,” but grounded in “what is.” Hashem wrote the script of our lives; how will we respond?
Tzivia has been alone for five years. Maybe it’s time to stop running from the pain and grief and let it in. Acknowledge the loss instead of filling the gap with your son, and become the “woman of the house.” You will be surprised at your strength and capability.
When the grief resurfaces every Yom Tov, I let it in. I cry. I share. And then I set out to give my kids the most I can, alone.
Until Hashem changes the script.
No Exemptions [Bottom Dollar / Double Take – Issue 951]
When I read your Double Take story about the wealthy brother who wouldn’t donate money to his needy (and irresponsible) sister and brother-in-law, it was almost surreal.
We have been living with married children that are “haves” and “have-nots” for 20 years and the situation doesn’t go away.
When I read the story, I immediately identified with Zecharia, the father of Rikki, with her eternal refrain of “tomorrow we’ll get it together, Dad.” But after I read Aryeh’s account I saw the picture from the side of my oldest son, who has worked incredibly hard to make his family comfortable and is now unwilling to fork out more cash to keep his sister off the street for another month.
What adds color to our story is that our “Rikki” is a very romantic artist type, who can’t get her housekeeping or income act together, but is an amazing full-time mother raising eight of the most beautiful, bright tzaddikim we could daven for. Whereas my oldest son, who is very successful materially and very active in his community, has raised a bunch of spoiled children. Several of his sons are looking into secular careers outside of the Torah world where we raised our big family.
The only advice I can offer to Aryeh and Zechariah is that there are no exemptions from the obligation of “Aniyei ircha kodmim” and “Mib’sarcha al tisalem.” For 20 years, we’ve been sending my daughter food and clothing every week (but no cash, which they have a special talent for wasting since my son-in-law continually has a new “get rich quick and then borrow and lose scheme”). But I can tell Aryeh that he can surely invest in his sister’s kids: When they become adults, they will have a very different approach from their needy parents.
Painful Portrayal [Last Stop Serial]
I am absolutely loving Bashie Lisker’s serial, Last Stop. It’s written so vividly; it puts you right into the brains of the characters. I am, however, pained and saddened at the portrayal of the position of a yeshivah bus driver.
Perhaps different communities have differing levels of respect and prestige for this job. Where I live, it is not beneath one’s dignity to be a bus driver. The bus driver is the first person our children get to see when their cheder day starts. My son’s bus driver greets the children with the biggest cheer in the morning; he is their best friend.
The yeshivah bus drivers in my community are the loveliest people, and no one, including their own wives, looks down at them for having this job. It’s a wonderful environment to work in, allowing the drivers free time during the middle of the day when they can do a side job or learn, and many mosdos have multiple routes available, leading to a lucrative parnassah. There are even some rebbeim who moonlight as bus drivers after hours to supplement their income.
It rubs me the wrong way that Naftali’s loved ones keep putting him down for his choice of profession, and he himself feels so broken and crushed about it. Bus drivers do a truly holy task ferrying boys and bochurim to learn Torah — there is nothing demeaning about it!
Looking forward to see this story develop further.
C. L. Hershkowitz
The Most Pressing Crisis [Growth Curve Serial]
I, along with many other readers, read with interest both the Growth Curve serial, whose unforgettable characters dealt with their challenges with wisdom and understanding, and the ongoing letters concerning rent prices in Ramat Eshkol in particular, and Eretz Yisrael in general.
Many letter writers raised valid points — the crisis created when virtually every building starts the Tama 38 process; the entitlement of children who feel their parents should pay their rent in their desired neighborhood; the difficulty faced by landlords dealing with massive inflation and rising interest rates; the greed of others who allow their apartments to remain empty until they receive a ridiculously high price; etc. Yet others pointed out that Anglo communities exist in Ramat Beit Shemesh and Givat Zeev, while some mentioned that numerous families have chosen to leave Eretz Yisrael.
But there is one point that I do not feel has been given adequate attention: the absolute mismanagement of the Israeli housing market and transport situation. Despite the fact that Israel has an unbelievably high growth rate — thanks to both immigration and fertility — very little effort has been made to solve the housing crisis. Successive governments have failed to implement any serious solutions and even set out to thwart plans to enable chareidi growth.
And let’s take a look at the transport situation. Although the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood virtually borders the bottom of Sanhedria Murchevet and Ramat Eshkol, the only way to reach it is driving approximately four or five miles — first toward Ramot, and then back toward Ramat Shlomo. Even to Ramot — with a relatively straight road — there are multiple traffic lights and horrendous traffic. One who wishes to reach RBS from Yerushalayim — a less than 30 km distance as the crow flies — has no choice but to drive northwest toward Tel Aviv, and then turn south, adding over ten kilometers and busy roads to the journey.
In terms of public transport, there is very limited transport between the outlying cities and neighborhoods. One who wishes to travel from Beit Shemesh to Kiryat Sefer, or from Givat Zeev to Teveria, has no choice but to first travel somewhere central and then change buses. Throw in a few children, suitcases, and Shabbos food, and this often makes it virtually impossible for people to spend time together.
Although a small amount has been done, and here and there one-lane roads have been upgraded to two lanes, and the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway has even been upgraded to three, this remains a fraction of what is needed.
And neither is this problem limited to the Anglo population. Every Israeli family is grappling with rising housing costs. Numerous places, such as Teveria, Har Yonah, or Ofakim have a small amount of housing available at a reasonable price, but the simple impossibility of accessing these places has made them unattractive — all the more so if a young couple’s parents live in Kiryat Sefer of Beit Shemesh.
Anyone who walks around any kehillah today in America and Europe will meet numerous families from Eretz Yisrael, some born and bred Israelis — often who married girls from abroad, and others who spent many years in Eretz Yisrael after their chasunah. Most wish they had had the opportunity to stay in Eretz Yisrael; unfortunately it was simply not practical.
When one watches the efforts made to overturn the High Court, when one witnesses the attempts to fix a wholly undemocratic system, one wonders why so little effort is being invested to do something that is relevant to virtually every citizen.
Y. M. G.
Homage to the Survivors [Horror Through the Prism of Faith / Issue 946]
I have yahrtzeit for my parents in Adar and Nissan. When I saw Mishpacha’s article a couple of months back about the virtual reality Holocaust film, I knew it would be a homage to my parents, Felix (Ephraim Fisher ben Raphael Yechiel Meir) and Feiga (Feiga bat Mordechai) Bandos, both Holocaust survivors.
In recent years, my father would go to the university each semester to speak to Jewish young adults on campus, so they would have an awareness of the Holocaust and for them to meet an actual Holocaust survivor. He spoke to various groups about his Holocaust experience.
So in the midst of Pesach cleaning, we went to see Triumph of the Spirit 360.
My husband and I went with some of our children, my niece, and our oldest teenage granddaughter, so we were second, third, and fourth generation survivors at the film in Jerusalem (screened at the Time Elevator in Mamilla).
During the film, I tried touching and reaching out, since it all seemed so real. I felt the narrator was talking directly to me and looking at me straight in the eyes. Most of us had been to Auschwitz in the past, but those who were not, felt that the film was comprehensive enough to get the feel of what happened at Auschwitz.
I think my parents are pleased that we and the next generations chose to honor their memory by connecting to Holocaust education, which was so important to my father.
Thank you Mishpacha magazine for publishing the article about Triumph of the Spirit 360 — not only about the actual film, but what the producers needed to go through in order to make this movie happen.
“From Ashes to Revival” was the story of my parents’ lives. Yehi zichram baruch.
Marilyn (Bandos) Broder
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 958)
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