Inbox: Issue 959| May 2, 2023
“So the Kichels went on leave, huh? Just like that, without any warning?”
A Dangerous Harbinger? [No Safe Spaces / Issue 958]
We should be grateful to Jonah James for chronicling the anti-Semitism he experienced on the campus of a prominent university, similar to what many others have reported. It is disturbing but not surprising that such hateful treatment of Jewish students with the courage and self-respect not to be cowed into disavowing pride in their Jewish identity (including support for Israel) is not widely reported in the mainstream media. The media’s suppression of such anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses facilitates a lack of accountability, which insures that similar anti-Semitic incidents will continue if not increase.
While it may be tempting for those of us with no connection to the college campus scene to feel that we are not affected by what goes on there, there is good reason not to feel secure. As Mr. James points out, today’s anti-Semitic students will soon enter the workplace and spew their venom there.
But there is another significant reason for concern, which may not be widely known. University anti-Semitism may be a harbinger of anti-Semitic attitudes and behavior in society at large. As the prominent (recently deceased) historian Paul Johnson explains in his outstanding book, A History of The Jews, German university students of the 1920s were at the forefront of virulent, radical anti-Semitism. Such anti-Semitism appeared and took root among German university students years before it spread to German society. It is worth quoting Mr. Johnson:
“Above all, Hitler achieved his greatest success among university students. They were his vanguard. At each stage in the growth of the Nazis, student support preceded general electoral support. The Nazis worked in the first place through the student fraternities…. As they grew more influential, they worked through the students’ union… which dominated student life in the 1920s. Finally, towards the end of the decade they set up their own student party. The success of the Nazis was due to the willingness of enough young fanatics to devote themselves full-time to the effort.”
Let us pray and hope that this proves not to be a historical parallel. But let us also not underestimate the significance of the prevalent, disturbing anti-Semitism on university campuses.
M. S., Monsey, NY
A Sensible Policy, Not an Attack [Worldview / Issue 958]
Thank you to Mr. Guttentag for validating the confusion I’ve been feeling the last year or so, regarding the chareidi community feeling targeted by the taxes on sugar drinks and disposable paper goods imposed by the previous government.
It was unclear to me how this was targeted directly at chareidim. Whatever one’s opinion on climate change may be, pollution is a real problem, and Israel is top of the list in terms of national use of disposable plastics.
While Avigdor Lieberman is no friend of the chareidi community, these are standard steps taken by many countries around the world — for example, the British government implemented a sugar tax in 2018 and plans to ban single-use plastics by October 2023.
The disposables tax seriously impacted the spending abilities of lower income chareidi families and yeshivah institutions, so the outrage was understandable. However, obesity is a significant health concern, and sugary drinks contribute to its development — a single 200 ml cup of the popular sugar drink Spring (any flavor) contains 18-20g of sugar (the daily recommended intake of which is 30g, easily overstepped by the simple step of drinking two cups).
As Mr. Guttentag states, lifting the tax removed the only proven tool for reducing high sugar consumption in our communities.
Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, a former chareidi UTJ member, once suggested that we shouldn’t be eating so many donuts Chanukah time. While he came under fire from all Israeli communities and has since refrained from making such “controversial” comments (clearly the donut is both sacred and non-denominational), this shows healthy habits are not only for the secular. On the contrary, we are enjoined “v’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoseichem.” Oneg Shabbos is not dependent on Coca-Cola and Spring.
Something is wrong when sensible public health policies are viewed as an attack on a community. The fault is partially with the legislators failing to communicate the benefits clearly and maintaining a hostile relationship with chareidim that allows for this (mis)understanding. But we also cannot fully reject responsibility for the way our own politicians and media construe their meanings for our insular community, which relies on them for news and updates.
Thank you, Mishpacha, for providing a more nuanced view on this subject.
L. P., Jerusalem
Hot and Cold [The Warmest Pesach / Issue 957]
After reading Rabbi Besser’s article about Montreal’s ice storm, I wanted to share my own experience.
I hosted my guests and grandchildren over Pesach. Though we lost our electricity, I was blessed to have gas stove top burners that I was able to ignite with a match. When Seder Night arrived, my dining room was illuminated by over 25 tea lights along with some of the scented candles I buy from Home Goods — my addiction and joy.
The Seder itself was extraordinary, with divrei Torah and singing. Everyone was joyful, and we felt fortunate to be together.
I was blessed with a good neighbor; on day four of our electricity outage, she lent me large Rubbermaid boxes, which we used to store our dairy products on the balcony.
It grew apparent that our electricity would not be restored anytime soon, due to the downed wires. At that point, Dr. Nick Neuman and his wife, our kind non-Jewish neighbors who have always helped out when we needed a favor, welcomed me and my large family into their home so we could shower. Not only that, he arranged for his top electrician to deal with our downed wires at no charge.
Dr. Nick did not stop going to bat for us over the course of six days — making call after call to the electric company, despite it being his holiday. He made sure our family was taken care of.
Our warmest thanks to Dr. Nick and his kind spouse,
No Longer Cold in Montreal
Strategic Damage [The Warmest Pesach / Issue 957]
Although we were not in our hometown of Montreal during the Erev Pesach ice storm, we came home after Pesach to find that all the food in the deep freezer and refrigerator had spoiled.
The saying goes that every cloud has a silver lining. In our case, it was the tree whose branches fell in our backyard. Our neighbors, who are not Jewish, built a swimming pool in their backyard many years ago. We then put up a mechitzah on our deck to block the view. At the end of our deck, there is a tree which — when there are leaves on its branches — blocks out the rest of the pool.
That tree was the only one in our backyard that was damaged. Large branches fell from it. What was amazing was that the branches that fell were from the right side, but not one branch broke on the left side of the tree, the side that blocks the view of our neighbor’s pool! Even one of the center branches that split in two had a left side branch still connected at a 90 degree angle!
When you go out on a limb for Hashem, He never lets you “down.”
Mordechai Bulua, Montreal, CA
You Painted Us Wrong [Inbox / Issue 957]
I’m writing in response to the letter-writer who made the following astonishing statement (so astonishing that for a while we couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be satirical).
“When the in-town bochur’s family finally does agree to do a shidduch with your daughter, make it easy for them. It’s not their fault you live out of town!”
We out-of-towners should, according to this writer, travel to them, commit to paying more than our share “immediately and ongoing,” make our own housing arrangements, and have the wedding in their town (agreed upon “up-front” — does this mean before the first date?). Wow.
I would like to bring a different perspective to anyone with this attitude. Has it ever dawned on you that we out-of-town girls actually might not be waiting on our knees for the in-town family to say yes? Actually, we see the beautiful aspects of out-of-town life and many of us are looking, preferably, for out-of-town boys. I’m not sure why you make it sound like we’re desperate, waiting for someone to throw us a bone.
We are proud out-of-town girls who are looking for out-of-town boys, and we might also be open minded enough (because, you know, out of town) to consider in-town boys. We love out of town and want to meet those Baltimore, Chicago, L.A., Cleveland, and Detroit boys. We’re grateful that we live out of town, and we specifically appreciate boys and their families who are open-minded like we are, not viewing us as inconvenient shidduch prospects because we don’t live in town.
A Privilege, Not a Problem [Inbox / Issue 957]
I wanted to commend Yisroel Besser’s beautiful article pushing for out-of-town girls in shidduchim.
As one myself, I felt that it really highlighted key pieces of the out-of-town qualities and mentality (and the reasons I am looking for an out-of-town shidduch).
Though Rabbi Besser was pushing for more in-towners to say yes to out-of-towners, I’d like to suggest to mothers of OOT boys to give precedence to OOT girls. They know more than anyone how hard it is for girls, and by rejecting OOT girls because their sons are in yeshivah in town and they don’t want to inconvenience anyone, they are contributing to a problem that can harm their own children.
But the point that I really want to make is regarding the letter writer who suggested that out-of-towners doing an in-town shidduch should do everything in their power to make it easier for the other side.
I think he missed the entire point of the article.
“Out of town” isn’t a “fault” or a negative. Rather, the balance and simplicity we have is quite a significant maileh!
Marriage is a partnership between two sides. We are not doing anyone favors by marrying them. Why should we be paying for more than our share solely because of the location we originate from? I find the notion preposterous! This is some real in-town thinking.
A wedding is already a huge expense (especially for the girl’s side); why would anyone want to make it harder?
We don’t expect much (another plus of OOTers) and are happy to travel in for first dates. Sometimes we stay there for weeks to make it easier for the boys we date. When boys do make the trip in to date us, we are immensely grateful and send them off with food for their trip back. Furthermore, we are flexible, and if it’s better for both sides, make our weddings in Lakewood!
A boy should consider himself lucky to marry a girl of the quality and caliber that OOT girls are. Yes, it is not our “fault” that we live out of town. It is an honor and a privilege.
A Proud Torontonian
Just About the Wedding? [Inbox / Issue 957]
As neither an “in” or an “out” sider, but probably classified as a total foreigner (though even the Kichels are aware that there are actually Orthodox Jewish communities outside North America), I had to wonder when I read the Inbox last week.
Is the letter-writer whose child married an out-of-towner really serious when he wrote they wouldn’t have contemplated a shidduch at all, simply due to the geographical location of the wedding, which is, after all, just a six-hour affair?
What about the reasons for the shidduch and ultimate marriage in the first place, and the rest of this young couple’s lives together? Does this not play a role? Or is it really just about the actual wedding location?
Joe Klein, London, UK
Keep the Simchah On-Site [Inbox / Issue 957]
Yisroel Besser’s recent article highlighting some benefits of dating out-of-town girls raised several interesting points and eloquently pointed out the many maalos that out-of-town girls tend to possess.
In his article, Rabbi Besser suggests making the wedding “in town” to make traveling easier for the guests. In my own experience living “out of town,” I have seen many shidduchim come together after friends of the chassan come in for aufrufs and weddings.
Besides the efficiency of setting up dates when they are here for a simchah anyway, the boys have an opportunity to see firsthand the warmth, unity, and unique culture that out-of-town communities have to offer. Oftentimes boys (and their parents) disregard an out-of-town shidduch simply because they are unfamiliar with the community the girl is from. After they visit for a friend’s wedding, the town doesn’t seem so foreign anymore, and shidduchim will subsequently be considered.
In addition, small communities rely on weddings and simchahs to provide much-needed jobs and services for community members.
“In-town” boys, please read Rabbi Besser’s article, and take his advice to date out-of-town girls — and when you are b’ezras Hashem blessed with a simchah, please consider making it “out of town.”
Time to Band Together [Inbox / Issue 957]
Last week, there was an Inbox letter insinuating that the young couples in Ramat Eshkol wish to live “the good life” here in Israel and are basically looking for an extended party. Since I actually pay rent here, I am going to disagree.
While I can’t testify for the original writer of the first letter, there is no party going on in my apartment. When we made the decision to start our married life in Israel, we took the largest one-bedroom apartment we could find. We knew we couldn’t go for much bigger as my incredible wife is pursuing a degree so that I can consider a future job in chinuch. Even though the apartment is small, we are paying over 6,000 shekel a month for rent. We are coated in mold and bugs, and since it’s in a basement, natural light is a luxury.
A few years ago, when I was a bochur here, this price was fetching a gorgeous, remodeled, furnished, two-bedroom apartment in the heart of Ramat Eshkol. Now, for an unfurnished, un-remodeled, porch-less, high-floor apartment in Givat Hamivtar — not even the heilige Ramat Eshkol — the price is close to 9,000 shekel. (Bear in mind that back then the exchange rate was closer to 4 shekel to the dollar, while now it ranges in the 3.4 area — a large difference for large numbers.)
Maybe the first writer was looking for luxury, something that a young couple who is looking to start their life based on Torah values perhaps should not be pursuing. If they were, then why not move to the more luxurious area of Jerusalem where the wealthiest Anglos own apartments — Rechavia! Of course, no young couple would want to be so flashy — unless they actually looked into the prices.
Rechavia these days is far cheaper than Ramat Eshkol. A recent posting for a 5-bedroom rental apartment in Wolfson Towers was 13,000 NIS. In Ramat Eshkol, the average price for such an enormous apartment would be 16,000. A two-bedroom rental in Rechavia is in the 7,000 range. In Ramat Eshkol, it’s in the 9,000 range. (As I typed this letter, an apartment in Rechavia was posted: three big rooms, remodeled, furnished, 115 meters, and a balcony for only 8,500.... No way this apartment would go for under 13,000 in Ramat Eshkol.)
I have returned to Israel after my wedding because my rebbeim instilled in us that Toras chutz l’Aretz doesn’t compare to Toras Eretz Yisrael, that starting out your life here is the best thing you can do for your future.
We don’t take taxis. We walk or bike instead of bus. We don’t eat out at restaurants. We rarely have meat during the week. In terms of spending for Shabbos, Hashem promised He would pay for it, and we’re here to work on our bitachon as well. We are very solidly supported bli ayin hara. And yet, somehow, we’re still barely making ends meet.
So we’re definitely open to suggestions, as I have learned that shanah rishonaniks don’t know it all. Should I pick up a paid night seder instead of staying home during shanah rishonah? Should my wife add a part-time job to full-time college so we can have some breathing space in the budget, or maybe even a second bedroom with an aboveground window? (I know, it’s a lot to ask for but just maybe...). Am I supposed to (irresponsibly) use up all my wedding money so I can have a few years of building myself in Israel before returning to my low cost, out-of-town life? Any other ideas?
Or maybe, just maybe, should we as a community stop paying these ridiculous rental prices?
Maybe we need to band together and find a new community? Not just a few stragglers heading to French Hill (tzuzamen with the Arabs) or across the highway to Ramat Shlomo.
I’m not looking to take weekly paid getaways to Galei Sanz here, just looking for a bit more sunlight and breathing space in my apartment, without having to give up on building a relationship with my wife during our shanah rishonah....
I don’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings. I believe that there are enough people who agree with me; it’s just that we have not decided to band together.
Am I the only one who feels this way? Does anyone else agree with me?
An Anonymous Avreich Reaching Out
On My Shelf, Too [On My Shelf / Issue 956]
Thank you for an amazing Pesach edition with so much fascinating and interesting reading material. (I especially enjoyed Dovi Safier’s masterful piece on the “Mother of all Yeshivos.” Wow!)
I am writing in regard to Rabbi Aharon Friedler’s article on the gas mask he keeps on his shelf.
The article, pictures, and memories personally resonated strongly with me, as my parents took a sabbatical (from Toronto, Canada) during the 1990-1991 school year. We lived in the Pinsker Building in Yerushalayim, and I was in 9th grade.
Suddenly, halfway through the year, we found ourselves living through the Gulf War.
Sealed rooms were prepared. Gas masks were our everyday and every-place companions. Schools closed. Air raid sirens were commonplace and sent us running.
Like Rabbi Friedler, who was admonished about requesting sweet challah when “there’s a war going on!” my mother once forgot to bring along her gas mask when shopping on Emek Refa’im Street. The store proprietor began screaming at her — how could she leave home without it?!
While I no longer have the actual gas mask (I believe we gave ours back before we returned to Canada), I still have the box it came in. I had decorated it with different newspaper clippings and, while during the war it carried my gas mask, after the war (and over three decades later) it reminds me of that time. It sits on a shelf in my closet, having traveled with me from place to place, country to country, and home to home.
As for the book in Rabbi Friedler’s picture, my mother has that too. There are pages that describe what to do in the event of a chemical attack and the effects on the (melting) skin and body.
May The Shomer Yisrael continue to protect His nation and His land as He did then.
Thank you for the memories,
Mrs. Michal Horowitz, Woodmere, NY
With Letters after Our Names [Heart Defects / Calligraphy Fiction Supplement]
Kudos to Michal Marcus for addressing a very real and prevalent issue in her recent Calligraphy story, where the female protagonist felt the need to keep her doctor role a secret for the sake of shidduchim. As a girl in shidduchim, the story hit a nerve.
Shadchanim, mothers, and boys, too: I respect you for who you are, despite the fact that you may have different experiences from mine. True, I may have letters after my name and multiple careers, but that isn’t who I am. Who I am is far deeper and bigger than the sum of my career and years of study, and I see you the same way.
Take the time to get to know the overqualified girls in shidduchim, and you will find that we are warm, caring, and full of desire to have a beautiful Torah home. Just like you. Please give us a chance.
Still Dancing [Living Higher / Issue 953]
I am writing regarding a line that was also used as a teaser in the Living Higher section of Issue 953 about Yossi Hecht’s wedding: “While the chassan himself couldn’t dance.”
People who use wheelchairs are able to do many physical activities, including cycling, basketball, tennis, baseball, swimming, skiing, sailing, and yes, dancing. It just is done in an adaptive manner and is different from how someone who has full use of his legs would do the same activity.
Our son wanted to know why the chassan in this story couldn’t dance, as he demonstrated his own dance moves for us… from his wheelchair.
It is time to educate the frum community as to what people who use wheelchairs are able to do.
You Have Been Warned [The Kichels]
So the Kichels went on leave, huh? Just like that, without any warning?
All right, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt; Kichels are human, and they need some time off like everyone. However, if this is some kind of miserable trick to force the Kichels into early retirement, then mark my words: We promise you a storm the like of which has never been seen before.
The protests against the judicial reform are child’s play compared to what we’re capable of. We will spread herring all over the Ayalon Highway, we will smear galleh on Ben Gurion’s runways, stuff the country’s drains with gefilte fish, fire Kichel cannons at the Supreme Court building, and a lot more. You don’t really want that, do you?
And don’t forget: Rochi still needs a shidduch; no boy is going out with a girl who no longer exists....
So, in order to avoid any unpleasantness, how about we just restore the Kichels as soon as possible, and we can all continue to enjoy our weekly entertainment!
Looking forward to their return soon, thank you very much,
CEO of the Kichels Protection Trust
The Kichels respond:
We were thrilled to hear that Bracha Stein was on maternity leave — frankly, we were long overdue for some relaxation. It’s such a relief to kick back and shed those cumbersome two-dimensional roles outlined for us each week. Finally, we can be our true selves: Nechama can sleep late, Chaviva can get up early, and Rochi can finally go outside wearing a ponytail and glasses.
We understand that you may find this hiatus difficult; however, upon the advice of our legal counsel, we would like to note that The Kichels are firmly opposed to any and all acts of violence, vandalism, and just galleh in general. Readers who find themselves mired in misery can try to inject some meaning into their temporarily bleak existences by creating custom labels for their spice racks, alphabetizing their sock drawers, or rocking back and forth with a glazed expression as they gaze longingly at the last page of Mishpacha’s back issues.
While some readers have asked about attempting to bring laughter into their lives on their own, please be advised that you should not attempt to craft punchlines or identify irony without the presence of a Trained Humor Professional. In the absence of said credentialed comedians, the Kichels are not responsible for any rolled eyes, exasperated sighs, or — chas v’shalom — puns.
See ya in the Shavuos magazine!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 959)
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