“If you read the article and wondering if you know ‘Perel’ or if your practitioner is ‘Esther,’ or you are waiting desperately for this to die down, you probably are working with an ‘Esther’”
Father and Commander [In It for Life / Issue 969]
I immensely enjoyed your article about Eli Beer.
As an EMT in United Hatzalah myself, I can only confirm the idea that you have masterfully conveyed: To us, Eli is like a father and a commander.
Watching him put his heart and soul into this life-saving organization is the biggest inspiration we could ever wish for as we go out and battle to save lives.
Signed in admiration,
One of Eli’s “soldiers” and “sons”
A Seed that Grew [The Moment / Issue 969]
I read your short article about the SEED program in last week’s edition and wanted to express my hakaras hatov to Torah Umesorah.
I grew up with a strong Conservative background in a large city in the Midwest. I always wanted more from my Judaism, and one summer vacation I reached out to the local kollel to find a chavrusa. One of the rabbis informed me that I was “in luck” because a group of bochurim had just arrived as part of the SEED program and would be happy to learn with me.
I don’t recall anything about my chavrusa, but I do know that I was quite intrigued by this unique species called a “yeshivah bochur.” In fact, it didn’t take long until I decided that I wanted to be just like him when I “grew up.” Throughout that summer I slowly began to imitate his walk, talk, dress, and so on. (Warning: Do not try this if you still don’t even know what a mishnah is.)
I don’t remember what we learned, but one incident clearly still sticks out in my mind. One day one of the balabatim in the community invited the bochurim to come with him to a baseball game of the local major league team and sit in his luxury box. My chavrusa seemed hesitant and said he had to ask his rebbi if it was okay. I couldn’t fathom what the problem was — it wasn’t on Shabbos and there was even a new kosher hot dog stand at the stadium.
My chavrusa explained to me something about not imitating the non-Jews by going to sporting events in stadiums. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about, but something about the fact that he held himself to a higher moral standard struck a deep chord inside of me. (Of course, I made it well known that I would be “moser nefesh” for the cause and use the tickets if his rebbi said no.)
It’s now over 30 years later. Baruch Hashem, for over 28 years I have been learning and teaching Torah. I have eight children and three grandchildren, bli ayin hara, and, b’siyata d’Shmaya, I have been zocheh to finish Shas twice.
To my chavrusa: Thank you. You planted the SEEDs, and I watered and nurtured them and with Hashem’s help they flourished.
Too Much Time on Their Hands [The Kichels / Issue 969]
Sitting here on the couch on Shabbos reading this week’s Kichels, I enjoyed very much the cartoons and illustrations until I reached the punchline of Mrs. Kichel krechtzing, “Oy! How do you think Baruch is doing? He only knew two boys in his bunk, I hope he’s okay.” V’chulu, v’chulu, ayein sham for all those who didn’t.
This is unfortunately the reality among frum mothers of today, and when we discussed it at Shabbos table, the theory presented as to why this is the case, was that these mothers have an excess amount of time. It builds up to the extent that worrying about the kids, and in some cases, mothers visiting the camps Erev Shabbos with a whole Shabbos meal (“So that my Riki shouldn’t starve”) becomes sensible, because — “What else am I going to do?”
I think this is very dangerous, and to quote someone (I don’t remember who right now but maybe the oilam will remember), “Time is the greatest weapon.”
Are You Really Stigma-Free? [Inbox / Issue 968]
I am writing this letter regarding the woman who wrote in about the True Account about the young bipolar woman, and signed wondering why she had to open a new email account to send a letter.
Yes, there are lots of people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder and with the right help and medication thank G-d are doing well and living successful lives.
However, let’s not forget about those who unfortunately cannot live the same life we think they should. I am the sister of an individual who has Bipolar 1, which means she has experienced several episodes of mania, psychosis, and depression. Each episode I’ve watched so far was more severe than the previous one.
I do agree with you that the stigma of mental health does still exist in our community, and it’s time for us to look at people for who they are and not just see them as a diagnosis. However, your letter seems to say that people who are not necessarily functioning well like you are have an issue, and it’s because they “don’t listen to doctors.” Let’s not assume that if someone doesn’t seem to be functioning well that it’s their fault. Just to give a bit of education, there is a term called anosognosia — when the patient is unaware of their neurological deficit or psychiatric condition.
In simple terms, part of the problem is that people with mental illness often don’t realize they are ill. They are lacking awareness and therefore often don’t follow the advice of their doctor and/or take their medication.
For many people, the reality of their illness is a decreased ability to function, through no fault of their own. You are upset with the stigma associated with bipolar disorder. Ironically, you seem to be stigmatizing people who are doing their best in their given circumstances. Please don’t blame anyone for not being able to have a life like you seem to have, despite your diagnosis.
You wrote: “Everyone we know with bipolar works, gets married, and has kids. Nothing about this disease dictates otherwise.” I found this to be incredibly invalidating, and I’m sure it was extremely hurtful to many others.
I’m happy for you that you are okay, and your life seems unaffected by your situation. However, there are so many people like my sibling who have serious episodes, each one lasting for weeks. This makes it hard for them to have a stable job.
Additionally, the goal in life for each person is different, and not every person will get married. We don’t know His Plan but we know there is one.
To reiterate, let’s be more sensitive to those struggling, and let’s not blame anyone for their pain. And just a note to family members of those with mental illness: Know that there are so many others like you, painfully watching a loved one suffer, with no light in sight. You are not alone.
A sibling who prefers to remain anonymous until there is no more stigma
Kosher in Every Way [The Little Fair that Grew / Issue 968]
We really enjoyed last week’s article about Menachem Lubinsky and the kosher food industry. I always remember the great time I had being a part of the Kosher Expo at the Javitz Center. I also enjoyed three different expos out of town: Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami.
Mr. Lubinsky did a great job for both the consumer and for the companies, me included. The thing I admired most was his integrity, and his concern for the vendors. May he have much hatzlachah in all his future endeavors!
Dovid Golding, Suki & Ding
No Partial Comparisons [A Glutton-Free Wedding / Second Thoughts — Issue 968]
In his article, Rabbi Feldman compares a non-Jewish wedding to a Jewish wedding. In Gemara there is a concept called “ein hekesh l’mechtsa.” That means that when making comparisons, you can’t make partial comparisons; they must be complete.
Though Rabbi Feldman’s point is well taken, I object to partial comparisons. Due to the fact that Klal Yisrael wouldn’t stop giving tzedakah, Chazal were forced to institute a gezeirah that prohibits people giving more than 20 percent of their income. The only way to stop Klal Yisrael from giving and giving was to institute a gezeirah limiting how much they could give.
Rabbi Feldman, please ask your friend the minister if there is a similar law in his community to limit how much charity anyone can give. Then please ask him if there are institutions in his community similar to Chaveirim, Bikur Cholim, Chesed 24/7, Tomchei Shabbos, the Chevra Kadisha, etc., etc., etc., staffed by volunteers.
I agree that our chasunahs could be toned down. Yet I prefer to see the best in Klal Yisrael throughout the year, especially during these Three Weeks.
Through the Roof [A Glutton-Free Wedding / Second Thoughts — Issue 968]
This week’s article by Rabbi Feldman was out of this world and should go viral.
If only everyone making a simchah had access to it. Not only are wedding costs going through the roof, but vachtnachts, brissim, bar and bas mitzvahs and the like put middle-class people in debt. People pay fortunes for chassan and kallah gifts, purchasing all new wardrobes before the wedding. It is the duty of the rabbanim to speak up.
A Grandmother in Debt
Offended and Pained [A Glutton-Free Wedding / Second Thoughts — Issue 968]
Although I always enjoy Rabbi Emanuel Feldman’s articles, I was very offended and pained by the article “A Glutton-Free Wedding.”
There is no need to glorify a church wedding and insinuate that we should use it as our role model. There are so many simple, punctual, dignified, and joyous Jewish frum weddings that we can and should emulate.
I have personally attended many very understated yet dignified and uplifting Yiddishe simchahs in Eretz Yisrael, London, Monsey, Brooklyn, Detroit, Williamsburg, and Lakewood.
A Happy Medium [A Glutton-Free Wedding / Second Thoughts — Issue 968]
I thought Rabbi Feldman’s article raised some good points, but I don’t think we’d want frum weddings to be exactly like the non-Jewish wedding he described. There has to be a happy medium because there are elements to frum weddings that really make them special.
I’m a baalas teshuvah and when I started dating, my parents weren’t frum. I remember having talks with my father about what type of wedding I wanted. Baruch Hashem, he was in a position to pay for something nice, but he was picturing 100 or so people total in a fancy hotel hall with an expensive live band and expensive catering. I explained to him what a simchah hall is and that I’d forgo the expensive food and band in exchange for a one-man band and 300 guests.
I don’t think frum Yidden want or need austere weddings. We just need to bring down the cost and cut the extra extravagances within the existing framework. But the structure of our weddings is special and should be preserved.
My Path to Freedom [Warning Bells / Issue 968]
The “Warning Bells” feature really rang true for me, as I have a story similar to “Perel.” I also saw a woman like “Esther” for individual and group “therapy” for nearly a decade. Besides the insane (and non-reimbursable) amount of money I spent over the course of a decade, I nearly lost my marriage and my family along the way. Thank G-d I got out before it was too late. That wasn’t the case for many of the women I worked with over the years.
The part that really jumped out at me was that the therapy group was a cult. This was my experience as well. One of the markers of a cult is that the people who are in it don’t know they are in a cult. I couldn’t see it while I was in it. I thought I had found the only path to true healing. I now know that there is no one route to healing. Everyone has their own path in life. One size does not fit all.
Some of the symptoms of a cult include worshipping the leader as the ultimate source of truth. In my case, “Esther” was the ultimate authority on everything. Similar to “Perel,” I became paralyzed and unable to make even the simplest decision by myself.
Another symptom of a cult is an “us versus them” mentality and an intense fear of the outside world. How could I not be afraid when everyone, and I mean everyone, was sick and unhealthy and only the women sitting with me in “Esther’s” air-conditioned office were healthy?
Zero tolerance for criticism or questions and insistence on absolute loyalty are additional symptoms of cults. Perhaps one of the most painful characteristics that keeps many people stuck in the cult for the long term is that anyone who leaves is ostracized and branded an enemy. Most cult members have isolated themselves from family and friends. If they leave the cult, they believe they will have no one.
I thank Hashem every day that He set me free five years ago, and that with siyata d’Shmaya and hard work, I have rebuilt my life. My heart aches for my friends who are still stuck in the cult.
If you read the article and are following this discussion and are wondering if you know “Perel” or if your practitioner is “Esther” or you are waiting desperately for this to die down, you probably are working with an “Esther.” Take it from me, you are destroying yourself and your family with every single session with “Esther.”
Hashem sent messengers in my life who allowed me to see the truth and leave. I daven that everyone who is stuck in cults like this hear the messages that Hashem is sending and leave — to begin the genuine healing you deserve. Perhaps this article and this discussion can be a stepping stone to freedom.
Choose Well [Warning Bells / Issue 968]
Thank you for your well-written article on the warning signs of harmful therapy. Your point regarding professionalism was one that is particularly pertinent to the frum community in Israel. Frequently we as psychiatrists are informed by a (usually) chareidi patient that they are seeing a “therapist” (metapel/et). When the patient is asked about the qualifications of the therapist, they often are unaware, and it commonly transpires that the individual has little or no professional qualifications.
I have absolutely no doubt as to the good intentions of the vast majority of these metaplim, nor would I deny that in some cases they do indeed help their clients. What is problematic is that there is no way to assess their abilities, given that they have not passed any accepted course, nor can it be assumed that they possess the body of knowledge and skills that a professional, by dint of being a member of a professional organisation, must have. This can cause untold damage both to the client and the therapist.
For example: lacking the training to set boundaries between oneself and the client, not being aware when the client needs additional help beyond that which the therapist can provide, sometimes even discouraging the client to take medication when it is indicated, and more.
Sometimes people use these “therapists” out of a desire to be treated by someone from within the frum community, but baruch Hashem, in Israel at least (I am not aware of the situation in the US), there are more and more well-qualified chareidi therapists available to turn to.
Therapy can be hugely beneficial for many conditions, but the dangers of poorly practiced therapy must not be underestimated. It is therefore crucial to choose a therapist who is certified by a professional body as qualified in their field, whether that be as a psychologist, clinical social worker, or any other area of therapy.
My Red Flags [Warning Bells / Issue 968]
I am writing in response to the article on spotting red flags in a therapist. As someone who was a victim of bad therapy, I would like to share a few more pieces of the puzzle.
Just having a degree, even from a reputable institution, does not make a person a good therapist. When I was seeking a therapist, I went in blindly, although I should have seen the red flag right away.
She did not give me any forms to sign, nor did she discuss confidentiality with me. Since then, I have been to other therapists, who, on day one, explained how they work, their process of treatment, what to expect, and which forms to sign.
Look for a consistent therapist. I never had a “standing appointment” — each week I had to text her to see if she had some time to squeeze me in. Sometimes I was locked out of the office, waiting on a public street. There were times she texted me, meaning to message someone else, very unprofessionally.
I went weekly, although she knew it was out of my budget, and it was, well, a lot of small talk. I did not know better. I did not know that I was supposed to have goals, be making progress, or be on an upward trajectory. I was told numerous times that I “seem normal” and really “should be grateful I am on a low dose of medication.” No one should be shamed in a therapist’s office for being on medication.
How did I finally sense something was off? After over a year with her, throwing thousands of dollars down the drain, I attended a Chazkeinu Shabbaton. I met other women who were all in therapy. They talked about goals, the progress they made, how they found healing. I was confused, because I never felt that way — there were no goals, no progress.
After the Shabbaton, I returned to my therapist and shared that I wanted to grow also, I wanted to feel better, be more confident, have more friends. In other words, I wanted to set goals and set a tangible trajectory.
She snapped. She called me scary, negative, closed off to change, and unlikable. I sat there in stunned silence.
Needless to say, I never went back. I am still deeply scarred, hurt, and traumatized from that. I feel abused and stolen from.
My message here is this: If you find you are stagnating, if you find your therapist unreliable, bring it up with the therapist. Maybe it was an oversight, but maybe it’s something real. No one should have to go through what I did, and therefore, I share my story as well.
Don’t Ignore Your Intuition [Warning Bells / Issue 968]
Thank you, Mishpacha, for sounding the alarm on red flags in therapy. I was awestruck to read how the professionals pinpointed exactly what I had experienced with my former “therapist.” Thank goodness I got myself out of there way sooner than Perel did, and still it took a long time to undo the damage the “therapist” had caused.
Along the way, I learned a very valuable lesson about our G-d-given gift of intuition and empowerment. I had let somebody else control my mind and play with my feelings — I had given my power away. Don’t ever let anyone take your power away from you! That’s yours to keep always, even when seeking help.
I also realized over time that the job of a qualified therapist is to bring hope to people, not the other way around. In my case every week in therapy was making me feel more despondent, helpless, and dependent on the therapist. May Hashem support us in finding hope and healing in a healthy wholesome way.
Thank you, Mishpacha, for a wonderful magazine — and thank you to all our hardworking therapists and social workers out there, making a positive impact in people’s lives despite the few who are running a misaligned or incongruent practice.
We Carry That Forever [The Gift of Silence / Issue 968]
I’d like to thank Mr. Yudin for giving a voice to so many.
I contemplate the title of the delivery of these babies. Stillbirth… As still as the silence of death. The pain of a thick silence. The ripping of a heart. The completion of life and death at once.
This experience is one that everyone moves on and forgets, except us. For those of us who are caught in the throes of trauma and loss, the sad truth is that life doesn’t simply move on, away from those undigested events, without some help, support, or time. Imprints of our losses follow us everywhere, leaving us many a time simply here and now.
So, Mr. Yudin and all the families that experienced loss, I am thankful for this article. Of bringing something so real to the forefront. Our call volume at Knafayim is testament to that.
I thank you for recognizing the silence. I thank you for understanding and being attuned to all of us mothers that have experienced a silent birth.
I ask of you and everyone to continue to remember. To remember that motherhood is an eternal place within our hearts, and although we cannot physically care for some of our children, the special place of motherhood will remain with us for eternity. The love of a mother is stronger than any other force in the universe. And we carry that forever.
Thank you all for remembering.
In the name of all mothers who have babies that are still,
Mrs. Malkie Klaristenfeld
Director and Founder of Knafayim
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 970)
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