“That you can’t write a letter with your name on it to the entire Mishpacha audience is, if you ask me, a maalah and not a chisaron”
Private, Not Shameful [Inbox / Issue 970]
I read the two letters about the stigma that comes with mental illness with so much pain. Mental health issues are extraordinarily difficult — sometimes more so than serious physical ailments — for the very reason raised in the letters, that they cannot be openly spoken about. It is so hard to get the support, empathy and understanding that are needed to survive these challenges.
Respectfully, I want to point out that the fact that you had to sign your letters anonymously is not an example of the stigmas we harbor toward mental illness. It is not because of (or perhaps not only because of) stigmas that you can’t reveal your identities. It’s actually a much higher value that we as a frum society are losing day by day: that of privacy, of tzniyus.
Make no mistake — I am no advocate for remaining silent when one must speak. The issue is that today the lines are so blurred. The secular world has lost all sense of discretion — their message is, “If you need to hide it, you’re ashamed of it.”
Jewish values demand the exact opposite; that which is most valuable is protected. Not hidden, shoved away, and ignored. But protected, revealed on occasion when needed.
Shalom bayis, finances, chinuch, and the like should be talked about as needed, but not without boundaries. Medical issues as well, whether emotional or physical, are private matters that need not be broadcast to the public.
And when it comes to the illness or struggle of one we love, this holds even more true. It’s not just our story we are telling, it’s theirs, and this compromises their privacy. By all means, find a mentor or friend to help you through it. But the fact that you can’t write a letter with your name on it to the entire Mishpacha audience is, if you ask me, a maalah and not a chisaron.
Wishing everyone in Klal Yisrael yeshuah and refuah from all their struggles.
Why We Worry [Inbox / Issue 970]
I’d like to respond to “A.W.” who suggested in his letter that mothers who worry about their kids away at camp do so because they have too much time on their hands.
I’m still not sure if this was meant as a joke, because the very notion is ludicrous! None of the mothers I know have ever complained about having “excess time.” The mothers I know, myself included, dream of more time in the day, wish they could function without sleep, plead with the clock to slow down.
Why do we worry about our kids in camp? Because we are mothers! Mothers worry about their children. We worry about them when we drive carpool, get a cavity filled, fill our shopping carts with groceries, cook dinner, swing by the dry cleaners, exercise, clean our houses.
A mother doesn’t need time to worry about her child, she needs a pulse. A mother’s worries fuel her tefillos and push her to be better — but she certainly doesn’t do it because she is bored.
You say “time is a weapon,” I say time is a gift.
A mother who doesn’t really have time to write this letter
Free Pass to Failure [Waiting with Yaakov / Open Mic — Issue 970]
Thank you so much for this Open Mic! As a special educator, one of my biggest frustrations is when people with disabilities are allowed to get away with anything they want “because they don’t know better.”
It’s happened many times that I saw people with disabilities act inappropriately in public, and when I respectfully went up to them to ask them to behave appropriately, I was told that I should just “let them be.”
People with disabilities want to be empowered to be as “typical” as possible, and giving them a free pass in life is actually going to hinder their progress.
Let’s say you have a person with disabilities who is devouring half of the kiddush food before davening is over. If you hold him accountable for his actions (with the support and guidance from his parents or staff), he can stop, and instead, given the proper guidelines and support, he can properly help set up for kiddush, and do a great job at it, too!
But if we let people with disabilities do whatever they want, in the name of being nice, we are truly hindering their ability to succeed and integrate into society.
I also want to point out that it is okay to have boundaries. People with disabilities might want to give you a bear hug (even if it makes you uncomfortable), or ask you personal questions that you don’t want to share. It is okay to say, “Can you please not xyz? It’s a little personal to me. Can we do/talk about this instead?”
I know that I am reiterating a lot of what Mr. Glicksman said, but I feel so passionately about the topic, and I am so grateful that it was addressed in Mishpacha.
Let’s Encourage Independence [Waiting with Yaakov / Open Mic — Issue 970]
I want to thank Stephen Glicksman for his excellent piece on including those with specialized needs. As someone who is privileged to work with this amazing segment of our community, I agree with every word he wrote.
Our community needs to recognize that children and adults who face the daily challenge of a disability are not any less a part of our community. When working in a camp for children with specialized needs one summer in high school, I was advised by my supervisor to do basic tasks for the campers because “they have special needs.” I was horrified by that attitude — just because an individual was born with Down syndrome does not mean he is incapable of cleaning up toys, or putting away laundry. Obviously, it is up to the staff who are coaching these individuals to determine what tasks they are ready for, but as Dr. Glicksman wrote, “tolerating inappropriate behaviors only adds to a person’s disability.” Teaching campers to clean up after themselves, as in this example, is a perfect developmentally appropriate task that encourages independence and ability.
In my role as a program coordinator at an organization that serves this specific segment of our community, I encourage my staff and volunteers to keep this in mind. Every program participant has different skills and abilities, but the role of support staff is to teach, to model — and then to sit back and encourage independence, only stepping in when necessary. It is my hope that other organizations as well as the broader community will accept this approach and allow those with different abilities to fit in seamlessly within our community.
Flooded with Learning [Iron Will, Soft Heart / Issue 970]
I was very impressed with the article about Rabbi Weberman. Although I never met him, I was inspired by how such an incredible person can leave a legacy and uplift a community for generations.
I would like to share a note about a recent legacy of Rabbi Pinchas Aharon Weberman. His grandson, Rabbi Yossi Weberman, leads the Beach Shul in Far Rockaway, New York. The Beach Shul is one of those special places in Klal Yisrael where everyone is welcome, no matter their background.
Along with Rabbi Akiva Berg, Rabbi Weberman decided to start a night kollel l’illui nishmas Rabbi Pinchas Aharon Weberman. It was a sudden decision based on inspiration from some of the stories that Rabbi Yossi Weberman told about his grandfather at the shul dinner. The next night, Kollel Pinchas Aharon was born.
Since the kollel was started, the walls of the Beach Shul are flooded with learning every night. Yidden of all types and ages are shteiging together. It is beautiful and inspiring to witness.
I imagine that the siyata d’Shmaya of such a kollel booming is due to its namesake, Rabbi Pinchas Aharon Weberman, along with the legacy that he instilled in his grandson, Rabbi Yossi Weberman.
Meir S. Cohen
Lawrence, New York
Apt Characterization [Iron Will, Soft Heart / Issue 970]
Thank you for your story on Rav Weberman a”h, who was my second-grade rebbi in Be’er Shmuel.
We had recently moved to Boro Park from Detroit. The transition to Yiddish-speaking Be’er Shmuel was hard for me. But in Rav Weberman’s class, I was able to feel more at home.
After lunch, we would bentsh together in class. Rav Weberman would routinely choose me to stand in front to lead the bentshing. He seemed to like the nusach neginah I had brought from Detroit.
On Fridays, when there was no English class, he would pack as many of us as fit into his Nash (or was it a Rambler?) station wagon and drive us to our homes. Otherwise we would have walked. From there he continued on to his own home in Far Rockaway.
He injected a joyous atmosphere into what in some ways was, for me anyway, a too-stale and rigid regimen. I think that the title of the article — “Iron Will, Soft Heart” — says it well, and also describes the way he taught second-grade limudei kodesh.
Share Your Wealth [Trust Fund / Issue 970]
This week’s “Trust Fund” serial brought up an important issue facing our community: the reticence of the wealthy in sharing their wealth with old friends, and feeling used and taken advantage of when asked to do so.
My husband is a rosh yeshivah with a large budget to fundraise. Between the two of us, we have many family members and childhood friends who are quite wealthy. And yet, none of them give anything significant to our yeshivah. Thankfully, many others do and b’chasdei Hashem we can pay our rebbeim and keep the lights on. But I am continually perplexed at how uncomfortable people become at the mere reference to money and fundraising. There is an unspoken vibe that if you really value our relationship, you don’t ask for money.
Sometimes I wonder: Is money the only resource in the world? We are all granted blessings from above — connections, business expertise, a warm family with beautiful Shabbos meals, the ability to understand others… the list goes on. And we all understand that we need to extend those resources to others who need it.
Would a wealthy guy not call a childhood friend turned doctor to ask for help with his child’s medical condition, even if they have not been in regular contact? Would you not call my husband at 11:00 at night desperately asking for help with getting your nephew into yeshivah? I know you would, because you have. And we gladly helped you, because that’s what friends do.
Did I hesitate when my cousin I barely know asked me to use very hard-earned work connections to help her get a job? Of course not. And I did not feel used or manipulated; I was happy to help, and grateful for the blessings I could share.
And yet people get really weird and touchy when it comes to money. They avoid eye contact and don’t return phone calls — even about unrelated topics — because they are afraid of being used. Valid feelings, but it’s hard to understand why this is different from what the rest of us are called upon to do, albeit with different mediums.
I know it can’t be easy being constantly asked for things, and it may feel like you’re being used. But please know: The wealthy are not the only ones sharing their resources; we all do it in our own way. So do your part — share what you’ve been given, with kindness, grace, and — most of all — humility.
Fear and Alarm [Bugs in the System / Issue 969]
I am writing to express my concerns regarding your recent article on Lyme disease. As a clinical researcher specializing in traumatic brain injury, I feel compelled to address the sensationalist approach that was taken in presenting the topic.
Having dedicated significant time and effort to studying the consequences of traumatic brain injury and its associated sequelae, including neurodegenerative diseases, I am intimately aware of the complexities and challenges involved in understanding these subjects. It is important to approach such topics with caution, acknowledging the current limitations of scientific knowledge and avoiding the temptation to present speculative claims as fact.
While I appreciate the efforts to raise awareness about Lyme disease, it is crucial to maintain a balanced and evidence-based perspective when discussing such matters. Unfortunately, the article in question seemed to focus more on creating a sense of fear and alarm rather than providing accurate information to readers.
One of the most concerning aspects of the article was the connection made between Lyme disease and professional baseball players with neurodegenerative disease who played in areas with a high tick burden. This association, as presented in the article, is akin to suggesting that ice cream consumption is associated with drowning because both occur in the summertime. Such a claim lacks scientific rigor and can lead to unwarranted fear and confusion among readers.
The occurrence of neurodegenerative disease in professional baseball players could be coincidental or subject to confounding factors. Without a rigorous study design and robust statistical analysis, it is premature to draw any meaningful conclusions or make causal claims. This is precisely why responsible reporting should avoid presenting isolated anecdotes as representative of broader trends.
In future articles, I encourage you to exercise caution when reporting on associations without solid scientific evidence and avoid the dissemination of sensationalist claims that may generate unnecessary fear and confusion.
Dr. Miriam Roth
Department of Defense, Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence
Silver Spring, MD
Consuming Our Money [A Glutton-Free Wedding / Issue 968]
It is always a pleasure to read Rabbi Emanuel Feldman’s Second Thoughts column, and his “A Glutton-Free Wedding?” (16 Tammuz) was no exception. It was right on the mark. If even one family reconsiders their extravagant wedding plans, it is worth the article. I would imagine, though, that once one chasunah is toned down, others may follow suit. We need a Nachshon.
Whenever my husband or sons made a siyum on Maseches Succah, they would read the final passage of the masechta (566). The Gemara there relates that at the time of the Chashmonaim there was a Jewish woman, Miriam bas Bilga, who converted and married a Greek officer. When the Yevanim entered the Beis Hamikdash, this Miriam bas Bilga kicked the Mizbeiach with her shoe and cried out: “Lukas, Lukas, ad masai atah mechaleh memonan shel Yisrael?” [Lukas is Greek for wolf.] “Wolf, Wolf, how much longer will you consume the money of the Jewish People?”
Upon hearing that, I said — just add another letter “samech” to the word Lukas and you get: Luksus, Luksus — Luxury, Luxury, how much longer will you consume the money of the Jewish people!
O. Rosenbloom, Jerusalem
Not the Rabbanim’s Role [A Glutton-Free Wedding / Issue 968]
I opened my copy just now and read the letter from “A Grandmother in Debt” in reference to the article “A Glutton-Free Wedding.” She seems to think that the extravagance displayed at too many simchahs can be curbed by rabbanim. I beg to differ.
Extravagance can only be kept under control by the people making the simchahs. Each and every person formulating the affair should be making a decision regarding how far up the ladder they want to climb as they make decisions about menu and decor.
I personally appreciate beautiful things, but it’s wiser to display them in your own home for your own enjoyment. It’s not good for anyone to be the topic of discussion.
Let each and every one of us try to curb our desire for something “memorable.” It only lasts as long as the next extravaganza.
Anything but Compassionate [Warning Bells / Issue 968]
When I read the article “Warning Bells,” I immediately recognized “Esther” as the unlicensed therapist I saw in group for several years. I also saw one of her indoctrinated therapists for individual therapy. I have heard people saying that Perel’s story can’t be true — it’s too crazy. I am here to tell you that not only is it true, but the article doesn’t even begin to describe what it was like to actually sit there week after week.
Our worship and adoration of Esther masked the terror of displeasing her and incurring a “look” or her wrath. We were hypervigilant, constantly watching her every facial expression. She didn’t even have to say anything, we would jump to be the first to call another group member out on resistance or authority issues. Calling each other out resulted in a nod or a smile of recognition from Esther, which made us feel so proud of ourselves.
She lectured endlessly about our unconscious minds — that we were either abusing or looking to be abused and could not be trusted to make independent decisions. This was one of the ways she created total dependence on her.
Normal behaviors and interactions were pathologized and called abusive. If we dared to question or disagree, we would be called abusers ourselves. We quickly learned not to question or disagree in any way. Husbands and children, as well as neighbors and friends, were all labeled unhealthy, and she advocated distancing ourselves from unhealthy people, furthering our dependence on her.
She perfected the balance between abuse and love bombing. Whenever we did something that she deemed abusive, either to ourselves or others, she (or a fellow group member) would call us out on it. She would then drone “compassion, compassion, compassion.” It was anything but compassionate.
She was on a mission to destroy marriages and families and largely succeeded. She demanded absolute loyalty from us to the detriment of ourselves and our families. It was truly horrific. So much damage was caused to vulnerable women who were easy prey for her.
I am so glad that this article was printed and that “Perel” was brave enough to share her story. The destruction is real.
Note: In the Endnote column in Issue 969 (“A Song in My Heart”), bandleader Shloimy Zaltzman spoke about the song “Malei Mishalos Libi,” sung by Shragee Gestetner a”h. Mishpacha mistakenly attributed the song’s composition to Yossi Green, when it fact it was written by Shragee himself. We apologize for the error.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 971)
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