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Inbox: Issue 964

“There are enough things to fight in galus; we can’t deny entry to high-caliber yeshivos for choshuve bochurim due to grades”


For Other Conflicts Too [There Is Another Way / Issue 963]

Thank you for Yael Schuster’s informative article about the many benefits of divorce mediation. When I first became a family mediator, it was an almost unknown profession, and I am heartened to see it featured here so that people can learn about the many benefits.

As a family mediator and coach, and a trainer of new mediators, I can tell you that the benefits of mediation are not just seen at the time of the divorce. They continue to bear fruit, for many years to come, especially where children are involved.

While a divorcing couple are no longer Mr. and Mrs., they are always Mom and Dad. Mediation allows for them to uncouple as partners, yet co-parent peacefully. In addition, the way children see their parents navigating divorce will be the playbook they use later in life when resolving their own conflicts, be they social, business, or familial.

The mediation process is useful in solving many other conflicts as well. In my practice, I have seen mechutanim (pre-wedding and post), dating couples, couples who would like to stay together, couples who want to decide if they should stay together, business partners, siblings, adolescent parents and children, and adult parents and children, to name a few. The mediation process has allowed them to have the conversations they need to have in order to resolve issues or conflicts, and often define and manage expectations, thus strengthening and preserving their relationships. And most importantly, it helps alleviate machlokes and brings shalom, and hopefully Mashiach for Klal Yisrael b’karov.

Ana-Lisa Gertner

Manhattan Mediators

Director at the Center for Mediation and Training


You Captured Our Reality [Knitted with One Thread / Issue 963]

I wanted to thank you so much for your article about national-religious youth drawn to chassidic courts.

We were part of such a community and moved last year to RBS in order to become chareidi. We started off “chardal,” moved toward chardal chassidic (as featured in the article), and precisely because of our time in a beautiful, supremely dedicated, sincere, and simple community of such large knitted kippah wearers with long peyos, felt that our next stop was the chareidi community.

I felt like your article was such a good explanation for our new surroundings of what we came from. Our old community did not celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut (this started when the community yeshivah was kicked out of Gush Katif), was makpid on kashrut mehuderet, and many people only had simple phones. Rav Asher Weiss would regularly speak at the community yeshivah, and a picture of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach hung in our neighbors’ home. Through such positive associations with chareidi influences, it was much easier to transition to the chareidi world when we were looking for the next place after our yishuv.

Many people don’t know that such communities exist, so I was happy to see an article exposing the context of what we came from.

M.B., Ramat Beit Shemesh


Other Heroes of Ashkenaz [Restoring a Forgotten Crown / Issue 962]

Since I grew up in Washington Heights and my father attended the Wurzburger Teachers Seminary, naturally the article about the effort to reclaim Toras Ashkenaz was of great interest to me.

The article did not, however, mention the largest and most famous German Jewish community. Rav Yosef Breuer arrived in New York in 1939. Little could he have imagined at the age of 56 that his greatest accomplishments were about to unfold.

He built a tremendous kehillah and yeshivah, all based on the “Torah im derech eretzhashkafah of his grandfather, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch. At its height, the kehillah had 1,000 mispallelim every Shabbos, and the yeshivah had close to 1,000 students.

Rav Breuer first built a mikveh, and then the kehillah and yeshivah. The KAJ kashrus certification that he set up is respected in all frum communities. Rav Breuer brought in Rav Shimon Schwab initially to assist him and ultimately to be his successor. Their legacies are well known in the Torah world.

Ezra Fleischmann, Brooklyn, NY


Proud of What He’s Planted [47th Street Farmer / Issue 962]

Thank you for your wonderful feature on farmer Zev Oster. Here’s the real man behind the article: staunch ish emes, baal chesed, family man, and a provider of a super-healthy outlet (in today’s technological world) for his children and many others.

He should be proud of what he’s planted and reap the rewards!

Oster Family Relatives


Avoid the Blame Game [Open Mic / Issue 961]

I greatly enjoyed reading Rabbi Rand’s article, which highlighted another aspect of why our children struggle in the systems in which we want them to thrive.

Rabbi Rand shared that often learning difficulties or differences in learning styles, which can absolutely be helped in various ways, can keep bochurim stuck and struggling unnecessarily.

I wanted to focus on one aspect of the article that I think is important to talk about: the blame game. It was discussed that, once a bochur appreciates that his difficulties have been due to a learning challenge rather than his fault, he can shed the guilt and boost his self-confidence.

I want to argue that the guilt was never helpful or necessary in the first place. As a society, we unintentionally promote the notion that unless there is an identifiable “excuse,” such as trauma, neurodivergence, or a learning difficulty, failure to thrive is your fault, and that guilt can spur you to improve. I once heard a colleague say they specialize in treating trauma because it’s not the client’s fault, it’s just about what happened to them, and that absolutely broke my heart.

The entire approach of blame versus justification is wildly unhelpful as a means of fostering real change. Acceptance is a basic prerequisite for any real change. A fundamental assumption in DBT therapy is that all behavior is caused, and focusing on causes tends to work better than judging and blaming. Blaming ourselves for poor middos or for lack of willpower is just not a great method for change.

While learning difficulties can be one reason for failure to thrive in yeshivah, let’s presume that any member of our community who is struggling is doing so  for a reason, and let’s work to continue to understand the reasons and provide resources for changing those reasons rather than piling on ineffective guilt that just serves to keep us stuck in an unnecessary and unhelpful poor identity.

Dr. Chaya Lieba Kobernick

The CBT/DBT Center


Factors in the Succos Story [Open Mic / Issue 961]

As someone who “coasted” my way throughout school up until I went to learn in Eretz Yisrael “late in the game,” I relate very much to Rabbi Rand’s article.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a 19-year-old bochur who attended yeshivah his entire life to be lacking basic Lashon Hakodesh and have kriah difficulties. This type of bochur could have coasted throughout his high school years by relying on his keen logical sequence skills and critical thinking (which is something that the ADHD brain excels in).

Why is that so many educationally scarred bochurim finally take a step back and start learning how to learn from the bottom up when they arrive in Eretz Yisrael?

I am sure every Eretz Yisrael success story is a story in its own right. If I may suggest a few factors:

Bochurim in Eretz Yisrael may be more willing to show vulnerability. Being far away from parents, and connecting with new peers who have similar struggles you never thought others may have had, causes you to not feel embarrassed or ashamed and take action and responsibility by seeking help.

Furthermore, Rabbi Zeira said, “I see from this that the air of the Land of Israel makes one wise.” And that, along with the higher maturity level and closer relationships with rebbeim and avreichim, creates a strong sense of acceptance and empowerment.

May we all be zocheh to give our children (ADHD or not) the proper chinuch that they need.

Y.B., Chicago, IL


The Cost of Only Alef [The Alef-Beis of Chinuch / Issue 960]

Thank you for the article from Rabbi Neuberger about “shiur beis.” I wanted to add an important perspective. I am choosing to withhold my name only because my son deserves privacy, but know this: I represent hundreds. Anyone who lives in my city knows I speak the truth.

This year, 40 boys in my (out-of-town) city did not get into mesivta for next year. The reason is that the three more “yeshivish” yeshivos in our city all drew a line in the sand, and decided that they would only have a “shiur alef.”

(I want to clarify that shiur alef refers strictly to level of learning and grades earned, not middos or yiras Shamayim or the type of home.)

My son is well-liked, has a wonderful chevreh, wakes up early, and stays up late to learn. My husband has been learning full-time for chasdei Hashem close to two decades, my girls are in Bais Yaakov, but there is no yeshivah for my son in this city — because they will not take a boy who doesn’t get straight As.

It seems ridiculous even as I write it. If you haven’t been involved, then you can’t understand the sleepless nights, the tears, the cold calls we have been making to try to get our son into a yeshivah for next year. It has been a lonely, long, dark nightmare, and that is with a son who is a source of nachas and who actually gets in the 80s and sometimes even 90s on all tests! If this is what the system is telling my wonderful son, how do any boys today, outside of the ones that only get 90s and 100s, stand a chance?

Right before Shavuos, we signed our son up for a wonderful out-of-town yeshivah that caters to “shiur beis boys.” I know that people think this is a good place for him. Perhaps I think that, too, and I am indebted forever to the rosh yeshivah who told us that it is his zechus to take our son and that he will elevate their yeshivah. We know that this is true and we are grateful that he knows it, too, but I would be unfair to my son if I told you all that he is thrilled.

He still asks me why he can’t go to the local yeshivah along with all of his friends. I still do not have a (good) answer.

However, even with all that, or perhaps because of that, I turn around and look at the systems, the impossible systems and impossible messages that we are giving our children today and demand a change.

The change is simple. Why can’t the brand-name yeshivos include a shiur beis? Many schools have tracks (levels) under one umbrella, and it works beautifully: a higher level shiur alef, a slightly lower level (of learning — not of middos or yiras Shamayim) shiur beis, and all boys remaining one chevreh.

That, to me, is the only solution.

At the end of the day, my son has been hurt by this process, and he has responded by taking on more sedorim and learning more, baruch Hashem. But would we blame a boy who gets turned off by this elitist system? A boy who feels, You think I don’t learn in a brand-name yeshivah, I don’t want to learn anyway....

Who will take responsibility for driving these neshamos away? As a nation, we cannot afford to tell our sons, “If you were blessed with the brightest head, you get to go to any yeshivah you want — but if you weren’t as blessed, there really is no place for you unless you’re prepared to travel to a yeshivah far from home, away from your family and friends.”

This system will push boys away, and chas v’shalom down the line, maybe their parents, too. The process challenges our emunas chachamim and makes us wonder if we want to send our other sons to the same yeshivos that refuse entry to their less gifted brothers.

There are enough things to fight in galus; we can’t deny entry to high-caliber yeshivos for choshuve bochurim due to grades. It is not just hurtful, it is dangerous to tell these eager-to-learn bochurim that there is no place for them in the brand-name yeshivos.

Written in tears,

A heartbroken mother


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 964)

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