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Inbox: Issue 960

As a society we need to remember that some things are needs and some are wants, wishes, or dreams. We live in a time when we have so much that it becomes hard for us to sometimes discern the difference between a need and a want
Where Credit Is Due [Outlook / Issue 959]

A column by Yonoson Rosenblum is always worth reading, and this week’s was no exception. However, I have to correct one factual mistake that does a disservice to Israel and its citizens.

Among the red lines crossed by the political opposition, Rosenblum lists “a deliberate (and successful) attempt to lower Israel’s credit rating.” Deliberate, yes; successful, no. Israel’s credit rating remains as strong as it was before, and as of now, it is expected to stay that way.

His error is quite understandable, as it stems from a nuance in the recent report on Israel released by Moody’s (one of the three major credit rating agencies), which others have also missed, and which the secular, anti-government press has gone out of its way to spread confusion about. But it is important to get the facts straight.

The credit rating assigned to a country by Moody’s or another agency gives its current opinion about the chances that those who lend money to that country’s government will get back what they were promised, on time and in full. Each agency also provides an “outlook,” that is, its forecast of how its rating might change in the future, which can be Positive, Stable, or Negative.

Positive means the agency thinks it might soon be able to raise the rating, though not just yet. Stable means it doesn’t expect the rating to change any time soon. And Negative means the agency thinks it might have to lower the rating in the foreseeable future, but there is no need to do so at present.

In the recent report, Moody’s left Israel’s credit rating unchanged, and reduced its outlook from Positive to Stable. In other words, the only change is that Moody’s now thinks it will take longer to raise Israel’s credit rating than it had previously expected. Admittedly, that’s nothing to cheer about, but it is far less serious than an actual cut in rating would be, or even a shift to Negative outlook. Note that the other two major rating agencies, S&P and Fitch, also show the outlook for the credit ratings they have assigned to Israel as “Stable.”

As Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich have repeatedly said, the text of the report by Moody’s is, on the whole, quite upbeat, citing Israel’s “strong economic growth and improving fiscal strength.”

Of course, the secular, anti-government press doesn’t mention that, since its goal is not to provide its readers with accurate, balanced news and analysis, but rather to portray the current government in as negative a manner as possible. But Mishpacha’s readership should have the real story.

David Hoffman, (retired) financial markets analyst at the Bank of Israel


Serene Environment [Count Your Blessings / Issue 959]

Thank you for a delightful magazine.

The recent issue featured an inspiring interview with Rav Nochum Cohen, titled “Count Your Blessings.” It was beautifully conveyed and filled the reader with warm feelings.

Rav Cohen, a fifth-generation Yerushalmi, with his refined character, is able to help people in an atmosphere that is “calm, not frenetic.”

In today’s world, to be surrounded with this trait, and be able to speak to a choshuve rav in a serene environment, is something special. Just being in his presence is a powerful experience.

K. Brieger


A Huge Debt [Crown Jews / Issue 959]

Thanks for the fascinating article on the history of the Jews of England. I was disappointed that one very important period was not mentioned.

In the nine months leading up to World War II, England took in 10,000 Jewish refugee children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. This was at a time when few if any countries allowed Jews to enter. In many cases, these children were the only survivors of their families.

I know this well. My mother and uncle survived the war as Kindertransport refugees. And my grandparents were lost. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to England and it’s something we would do well to remember.

Marsha Grant



You’ll Have to Choose [Inbox / Issue 959]

As a fellow newlywed who has the zechus to be spending shanah rishonah in the Ramat Eshkol-Sanhedria area, I completely relate to the frustration expressed by last week’s letter-writer regarding the rising rent prices here.

My husband and I (along with what seems like every other couple and young family in our area) are desperately looking for an affordable apartment for the upcoming zeman, as we too made the decision to start off our married life here, and since we have seen firsthand the incredible benefits of that choice, we would like to continue making it work for at least another year.

But here’s my point: It was just that — a choice. And the hardest, most wrenching choices are never between right and wrong, but between right and right.

Your dreams and aspirations are all so noble and all so right. You chose to come for all the right reasons: to experience Toras Eretz Yisrael, to build your marriage away from any distractions and outside influences. I fully agree with you that living here is no party, and we do it because we want something greater.

But one of the most beneficial yet difficult lessons that adulthood, and especially marriage, has taught me, is that you simply can’t have everything. So much frustration and angst comes from the belief that we should be able to have the best of all worlds, to benefit from the advantages of a decision without having to deal with any of the disadvantages. You have dreams that stem from all the right places, but part of life is realizing that simply due to practical considerations, something is going to have to give.

You list a slew of options to make Eretz Yisrael continue to work for you, and yet you nix every option. Should you move to a random neighborhood? Well, plenty of people are deciding to do just that, despite the obvious inconvenience. Should your wife take on a job in addition to full-time college, or should you spend evenings tutoring rather than bonding during shanah rishonah? Well, if neither of you is bringing in any income, and support from both sides isn’t enough for you to cover the month even when you are cutting back in every area, then unfortunately you just might have to.

The fact of the matter is, there is an economic crisis going on. You say you did not come looking for luxuries, and trust me, neither did we. But you seem to be forgetting that living here at all, especially when parents are footing the bill, is an incredible luxury in and of itself. The price of everything has gone up since our yeshivah/seminary days; rent is just the greatest of those expenses. Should we start boycotting the grocery stores because of the inflated prices?

I don’t think the baalei dirah are out to get us. Many baalei dirah are themselves living in “random” neighborhoods to be able to cover their own life expenses, and the (yes, I agree) exorbitant rent prices their tenants are paying them still don’t allow them to cover their costs at the end of the month. This crazy inflation isn’t anyone’s fault, but it is our problem to deal with, and every couple is going to have to decide how they are going to do so.

Some are going to say that Toras Eretz Yisrael is their current priority, and they will move to random neighborhoods, or take on extra jobs at the expense of time spent with their spouses and children. Others are going to say that their relationships and menuchas hanefesh take precedence at this stage in their lives, and they are going to have to make the wrenching decision to go back to chutz l’Aretz. But there is going to have to be a choice. It’s part of life.

I say this not from a place of callousness, but you seem to be in denial of what adulthood means. It means that some dreams are going to have to come at the expense of others — yes, even dreams that all have ruchniyus value. It’s hard for me to accept this as well — I think this is one of the hardest lessons I have learned since I moved here — and yet accepting this fact is the only way to move past bitterness and the sense that others are wronging you.

As my husband and I continue to pore over apartment listings while simultaneously acknowledging that our year here might be just that — one year, which we will always look back on with tremendous longing and hakaras hatov — I am hoping that you have hatzlachah as well as you navigate the difficult decisions that adulthood brings.

Just Being Practical in Ramat Eshkol 


Enabling Your Dream [Inbox / Issue 959]

I would like to respond to the letter writer from last week who wrote about how he is trying to live a very simple life in the Ramat Eshkol area, but is still barely making it living in a small, run-down apartment with no natural light.

The writer says he came back to Eretz Yisrael because his rebbeim instilled in him that Toras Eretz Yisrael is incomparable to learning in America. The fact that this was the advice you were given does not mean that all around you need to make this possible. This is a new mindset of current day wokeness that one man’s dream must be realized and enabled by all those around him. If this is the ideal that you would like to live and follow, then you need to realize that you and only you are going to make this happen.

I do not believe that money should be a factor when people decide on whom to marry, but at the same time money can definitely be a factor when deciding on where to live with that person. You mention that you are being fully supported as your wife is in school and not bringing in income. If this is your reality, then maybe right now is not the time for Toras Eretz Yisrael. Maybe you should wait in America and come back to Eretz Yisrael when it is more plausible for you to live here.

We live in a society where we create a script of the life we would like to live and then ask or demand of others to enable this to happen. We live in a time when, baruch Hashem, people have the means to support their children and allow them to pursue their dreams of learning in Eretz Yisrael — but we must remember that our dreams and goals are not the burden of others.

No one is demanding that young couples live in apartments with no sunlight, and no one is forcing you to do so. Yes, sunlight and no bugs are normal living conditions. However, if living in Eretz Yisrael is your dream, then you must realize that these conditions may also be your reality, and no, you cannot ask others to put their dreams aside so you can attain yours in comfort.

As a society we need to remember that some things are needs and some are wants, wishes, or dreams. We live in a time when we have so much that it becomes hard for us to sometimes discern the difference between a need and a want.

I am a full believer that learning Torah is a need for young couples starting out their marriages, and that it should be done in a place of comfort (I would acknowledge that even this some would call a want, not a need), but this can be done other places besides in Eretz Yisrael. Toras Eretz Yisrael is a luxury that for the majority of recent history was not even a thought to the average person, let alone a need.

We should spend our time thanking Hashem that phrases such as “starting out in Eretz Yisrael” exist in our lexicon as opposed to lamenting the conditions this luxury may bring with it.

A Yungerman in Eretz Yisrael


Which Luxury Neighborhood? [Inbox / Issue 959]

We’ve been following the back-and-forth regarding the housing prices in Ramat Eshkol. Last week, a letter writer stated that for young couples looking to live the luxury life, and I quote, “then why not move to the more luxurious area of Jerusalem where the wealthiest Anglos own apartments — Rechavia!

While our hearts sincerely go out to all those who want to live here and are being charged a fortune for their small apartments, I would like to correct a mistaken belief.

The neighborhood of Shaarei Chesed–Rechavia is a very diverse Anglo community with more than 150 kollel families, as well as dozens of working families, many who came from overseas over 20 years ago with the intention to live here — not just “start out” here — leaving behind many of the comforts of home out of chashivus haTorah, and love of Eretz Yisrael.

Most of us live in small apartments in conditions the same as described in your letter (old, moldy, etc.), and baruch Hashem filled with children. The majority live in rented apartments because they would not — and could not — dream of buying.

It is known that Rechavia has an extremely expensive real estate market, and that is mainly due to the number of apartments — and entire buildings — owned by tourists who come to visit once or twice a year, making apartments here extremely hard to find and afford.

If you were to take a walk around our neighborhood, you would not find uniform luxury; you will find a renovated house (usually empty for most of the year) next to an old and dilapidated building (full to bursting). We also pay higher prices in the local groceries due to the many tourists who come and go.

Now don’t get me wrong, we love to see all the visitors who come to Eretz Yisrael — it adds color and livens up our neighborhood — but these are the true facts of the life we live, and how living in a so-called “luxury” area affects our day to day life.

A very happy (despite not living in luxury) Anglo in Rechavia


Other Options Do Exist  [Inbox / Issue 959]

There are a lot of opportunities outside the Ramat Eshkol “bubble,” but people just don’t know about them!

I recently compiled a book, Living in the Land — Firsthand Accounts from Bnei Torah and Their Families (soon to be published by Mosaica Press), sharing the experiences of 50 English-speaking olim living all over Eretz Yisrael. Here is a short anecdote from one of them, who moved some years ago to the new litvish community in Givat HaMoreh, Afula, precisely for the purpose of being able to afford to stretch his kollel stay in Eretz Yisrael.

“One of the chutznik families in Givat HaMoreh manages an apartment that is rented out for weekends and short-term to vacationers. A friend of mine was planning to terminate his stay in Eretz Yisrael as it was just too expensive for him to live here as an avreich. He decided to take a weekend vacation before leaving, and rented that apartment for a Shabbos.

“After being exposed to the warm and fully functional kehillah here, and realizing that there were more English families here than only my own, he told me that it just never occurred to him that such communities existed where he would be able to afford staying here as an avreich. He had mistakenly only compared the finances of chutz l’Aretz to Yerushalayim and its surroundings.”

So, in fact, such places do exist! Not every such place might be a good fit for the average American kollel couple, and of course some adapting will be necessary, but that’s true about moving to anywhere. And of course, if a few couples would do this together, it would be much easier. I’ve done some of the research and am happy to share.

Yoel Berman

The letter writer can be contacted through Mishpacha.


To Save a Life [For This Child We Prayed / Issue 958]

I really enjoyed the article about the Spinka Rebbe last week. As a Spinka talmid, I want to mention an additional detail.

The paramedic mentioned that there was an old man at the scene while he was pulling out the ten-year-old boy who would later become the Spinka Rebbe. When they met many years later, they tried to figure out who that old man really was. The paramedic was shown a picture of the Chakal Yitzchak, a previous rebbe of Spinka, and he identified him as the anonymous man who’d help him save the little boy.

Even though the Chakal Yitzchak was not alive at the time of the accident, he came back to save his descendant’s life and was seen davening for him at the scene of the accident.



Keep the Simchah Out of Town [Inbox / Issue 957]

As an “out-of-towner” who has baruch Hashem done quite a few shidduchim, I would like to thank Rabbi Besser and letter writer Rabbi Katz for their kind words.

But I take issue with one point: that parents of the girl should agree from the get-go to make the wedding “in town.” A letter writer went even further and said that the out-of-town parents should go one step further and do more than their fair share financially (?!) as well as try to make their own arrangements for accommodations.

I will address the last comment first. I have yet to come to an in-town simchah — be it my own or that of a relative or a good friend — where any of the “in-towners” made even the most minimal arrangement for accommodations.

And therein lies the rub. Pre-Covid, when it was a given that the girl’s side would host the chasunah, we out-of-towners went out of our way to host our guests. Post-wedding breakfast included.

One of our mechutanim came to our city very reluctantly, quite overwhelmed at the necessity of traveling. With the kind help of our friends, we hosted several families with more than five children each. After the weekend our mechutanim were overwhelmed again, this time with appreciation.

I will remind Rabbi Besser of his words in an article written during the height of Covid. He bemoaned the lack of simchahs in Montreal and, among other points, if I remember correctly, he wrote that we want the other side to see we have friends, too.

Which brings me to my last point: the financial one. The second letter writer advises that out-of-towners commit to paying more than our fair share. Seriously? Having made our last simchahs “in town,” we already did more than our fair share. Economically, making a wedding and Shabbos sheva brachos in another city — aside from being extremely stressful — is already much more expensive. Let’s not forget that your good friends “back home” are not hosting any sheva brachos.

Last, but certainly not least, the in-town halls are overbooked, whereas your friendly out-of-town caterer has been struggling financially and can accommodate you more easily.

D. G. B.


Have We Gotten Lost? [Inbox / Issue 957]

I have been following Yisroel Besser’s article on out-of-town shidduchim — and its letters of response — with much interest, because it is always interesting to read Yisroel Besser, period. And given that I was born in Prague and have lived in Bangor, Los Angeles, Olyphant, Pittsburgh, Milford, Cleveland and Baltimore, I seemingly qualify as an out-of-towner.

All of our children (except one) married into out-of-town families so the first thing I did after reading the original article was to call our one set of in-town mechutanim (does Monsey qualify as in-town?) and thank them for considering us. I guess we made the cut.

The reason for the letter, however, is last week’s in-town respondent who reassured us (phew!) that there was hope for the out-of-towners as long as they commit to making their weddings in the Tristate area. Which city it was in Connecticut I wasn’t sure.

I must have been asleep in class when our teachers taught us the story of Avraham sending his trusted protégé Eliezer to find a wife for his beloved son Yitzchak. He must have gotten lost, because I don’t seem to recall the address on the back of Yitzchak and Rivka’s wedding invitation being from the correct zip code.

It never ceases to amaze me that as a nation we managed to traverse the Red Sea, yet there are members of the Tribe today that can still not see their way clear to cross the Hudson.

Sarah Spero, Baltimore, Maryland


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 960)

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