“I am the only chareidi-presenting woman employed at my Tel Aviv high-tech company, and over the past few years, I have experienced countless moments that show that the spark truly is there”
We Can Flip the Script [The Forum / Issue 976]
I read both Rav Ginzberg’s and Rabbi Yonoson Rosenblum’s back-to-back articles on chareidi responsibility to the wider Israeli population with great interest. I felt both articles were deeply connected and spoke to a higher cause that frum Jews have, at this stage more than ever before — to be “a light among the nations,” but within our own nation.
I am the only chareidi-presenting woman employed at my Tel Aviv high-tech company, and over the past few years, I have experienced countless moments that show that the spark truly is there.
There are Jews walking around this country who are several generations Israeli and yet are completely disconnected from their Jewish roots — to the point that many have grown up within an hour of Jerusalem and have never set eyes on the Kotel, or couldn’t utter a single sentence of the Shema if their lives depended on it — yet they are open to conversation about Orthodox Judaism seemingly out of nowhere.
A coworker of mine, who has never in her life opened a siddur, will flip through the one on my desk and ask questions about the text. It is clear she feels a stirring that is new and scary but also ancient and exciting. I can only sit there and watch with curiosity at her discovery of words that are truly as foreign to her as another language, and be ready to engage in the conversation should she want one.
These conversations, which happen organically and without force, are some of the most enlightening I’ve ever had. I do not go to work to do kiruv in any sense, but in the process of making friends, being invested in each other’s lives, and otherwise humanizing the way we view others with seemingly opposite lives, we’ve opened up opportunities for growth on all “sides.”
Trust me when I say that my own Yiddishkeit has been strengthened through these relationships, because seeing the beauty of my life, and the clear truth of a life of Torah through the eyes of someone else who is only seeing it for the first time (and never thought it worth anything) is special and fortifying.
My colleagues and I have had conversations around the political climate, and conversations around child-raising and marriage, and everything in between. I’ve answered dozens of questions about what life for an Orthodox family actually looks like, and I see bias built up for decades erased in a matter of minutes. All it took was a smile and open communication. No judgment.
It’s not all roses — I’ve had difficult interactions too, and some people will not come around and have a normal discussion; they are simply too fired up. But even for them, I feel having exposure to someone like me, classically Orthodox, Shabbos- and kashrus-keeping, wig-and-tights-wearing me, is an important dose of normalcy that will continue to challenge their mind’s-eye view of what an Orthodox person looks and behaves like. It is even more incredible to see that this is possible in the world of hybrid work — I do not have to be a regular presence in a physical office to build these connections, and neither do you.
When I read articles such as these printed in Issue 976 about the responsibility of frum Jews for their secular brothers in Israel, I feel it directly in my heart. We do have a responsibility — to engage, to be open, to erase judgment, to have the difficult conversations when they arise — and yet it is not nearly as heavy a lift as we make it out to be.
It is my deepest belief that we should all be ready for these interactions, whether we initiate them or not. It can be as small as an open smile, a genuine hello. I can assure you from my own experience that these tiny efforts do make a huge difference and together, hopefully we can flip the script and bring about the changes that will ensure that the future of the people of Israel is more unified than ever before.
A. Hornstein, RBS
Glowing with Pride [A Crown Passed Along / Issue 976]
Many moons ago when I was a teenager, I was a volunteer visitor every Shabbos at our local nursing home, Aishel Avraham (now known as Bedford Center). One of the exceptional women I spent time with was Mrs. Sadie (Sarah Gittel) Leichtung.
Mrs. Leichtung was always dressed impeccably in her Shabbos finery, saying Tehillim. My first encounter with her was when she asked me for a cup of water, and like Rabi Akiva, she used it to wash for bread instead of drinking it.
I was very impressed by this pious elderly lady and we became friends. I asked her if she had any family, and, face glowing with pride, she told me her son-in-law was Rav Aharon Schechter of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin. Being of thoroughbred chassidish stock with no inkling of the yeshivah world, I went home to ask my father if Rav Aharon was a well-known rosh yeshivah. My father’s eyes opened wide as he informed me who Rav Aharon was.
Rebbetzin Shoshana Schechter battled health issues and had difficulty walking, but she made the effort to visit her mother regularly. I remember visiting Mrs. Leichtung one Chol Hamoed, and she was extremely excited to inform me that her son-in-law the Rosh Yeshivah had just visited.
Mrs. Leichtung passed away 27 years ago, yet I still remember her reverence and awe of Rav Aharon. Zechuso yagen aleinu.
C. L. Hershkowitz
Inspired and Inspiring [What My Teacher Taught Me / Issue 976]
Our mishpachah had tremendous nachas from the entries about memorable lessons that teachers imparted. Our illustrious oldest sister, Mrs. Chaviva Pfeiffer, and her equally illustrious son-in-law, our nephew, Rabbi Moshe Dov Heber, were featured side-by-side.
Each of them is changing countless lives, one student at a time. They are role models who follow in the footsteps of our esteemed parents. They may have written about teachers who inspire them, but they certainly inspire us every single day.
May they continue to be successful in their avodas hakodesh.
The Krohn, Kramer, Perlstein, and Krohn Families
What Great Chinuch Is [What My Teacher Taught Me / Issue 976]
I loved reading through “What My Teacher Taught Me,” and the first thing I thought of when I read this was the letter we got from my son’s third-grade rebbi, Rabbi Yehuda Deutsch, at the end of the year.
He was offered a leadership position at another school, and his concern was that since he wouldn’t be in the building any longer, he would lose a kesher with his students. “I can’t imagine not keeping the connection with any talmid,” he wrote. Instead, he proposed that he start a learning group with the boys the next year, so he could catch up with them, schmooze, learn, and stay in their lives.
The learning group was a great success, and it crystallized for me what great chinuch is — in the classroom and out of it.
Balaton Memories [Breezy on the Balaton / Issue 975]
Ah, Lake Balaton. Judy Landman’s article brought back memories.
Before we left Hungary for good on August 31, 1958, my family had stayed at Lake Balaton three times. I don’t remember the first time because I was a toddler.
The second time we went to Balaton Szemes, which was a small town on the southern side of the lake. That side has sandy beaches and the water is shallower and warmer.
The setup was that people rented rooms in the town and ate together in a kosher communal dining room. Upon our arrival, we and another family hired some young men at the train station to take our luggage to where we were staying, for an agreed-upon price. When we got to our lodgings the men asked for more money. My father refused. Since he was big and strong, they didn’t fight with him.
While our parents were settling in, a boy from the other family and I went to buy some postcards. The men were waiting for us. They were going to beat up my father’s child. Fortunately for me, they thought the boy was my father’s son. Fortunately for him, he was an excellent runner.
There was a terrible polio epidemic in Hungary during the following year. Just like during the height of Covid, we were in lockdown. We didn’t go anywhere. My mother found out that there was no polio in Balaton Fured, so she decided to take us there for a month. By this time, I had a small brother.
There was a kosher hotel with a nice restaurant. By that time my father was working for the kehillah, and we were able to stay at the hotel for free for two weeks. For the other two weeks, we rented a room in town and ate in the hotel dining room.
On the north side of the Balaton, the shore is rocky and the water is deeper and colder. Nevertheless, we spent lots of time at the lake.
My last association with Balaton happened when I graduated from fourth grade.
In Hungarian schools, they place great emphasis on learning poetry by heart. Hungary’s famous national poet Alexander Petofi wrote an extremely long poem about the River Tisza (Theiss River), which we had to learn by heart.
For the graduation ceremony, the teacher split it in half. I yearned to be chosen to recite the second half, which had a very dramatic ending. Alas, it was not to be. Instead, I spoke about Lake Balaton. While I can’t remember what I said about the Balaton, I can still recite parts of the poem all these years later.
What’s the True Goal? [Art of the Deal / Issue 975]
I read with fascination Esther Kurtz’s “The Art of the Deal,” about the marketplace for Jewish art and the role that dealers play in helping artists sell their work. Reading this article felt a bit like reading a tourist’s guide to Mars, to be honest — even the lowest tier of art mentioned, the so-called “décor-art” going for a mere $2,000 to $5,000 a painting, costs several times my entire art budget (which, to be fair, is hovering just above nonexistent). But my bank account reality should not be taken as indicative of my appreciation for art, and I enjoyed the peek into the artistic process, the real-market insights shared by dealers, and the beautiful paintings that accompanied the article.
It was interesting to note that many artists feel frustrated that their dealers take such a high cut of their proceeds — 30 to 50 percent, per the article — which often means that when you subtract expenses (and time), the dealers walk away with far more money. At the same time, many of the artists confessed to not being skilled at selling their own work. As a fellow creative, this reality has frustrated me in the past — but I’m learning to look at sales (an ability I definitely do not have) as an art of its own.
One line that stayed with me: “[The popular contemporary abstract style] is much easier to master for beginning artists. Artists don’t need much of a skill set or prowess to create artwork like this, which opens the door for less skilled artists to sell their work at a high price.” One artist interviewed recommends looking at the hands and feet in the painting to assess the artist’s skill. “If they’re blurred, the artist likely can’t draw,” he says.
But of course, this leaves one wondering: If, as the article suggests, the true goal of art is to touch the viewer’s heart, then what does it matter if the artist is truly skilled, or if they just give the impression of being skilled? If the final abstract painting looks the same, what does it matter what prowess lies behind it?
I have no idea.
Of course, I also have no artist’s gallery in my living room. But when I win the lottery, I know who to call.
Oblivious to the Humans [Dream Vacation / Double Take – Issue 974]
The Double Take about the family wedding in Kiryat Sefer made me cry.
The experience of both sides felt so real and relatable, and for a change, this wasn’t a Double Take where some “simple” open communication would solve the issue, because the actual realities that would be communicated are not easy to stomach.
I’ve been on both sides of this conundrum, and there is no easy answer. I wish there was a way for everyone’s best intentions to be reflected in their actions, but it’s tough; anyone, no matter where they live, dreams of sharing their simchah with their family, and would feel so hurt if that family were to find reasons to skip their special events.
And at the same time, it can feel really anticlimactic to spend time and money traveling to Eretz Yisrael, only to discover that not everyone lives a stone’s throw from the Kosel... and you can only be in one place at a time.
The one thing that I can’t understand, however, is why Malka’s siblings could not include her children in their outings. After all, wasn’t part of the purpose of their trip to get to know the cousins? That doesn’t really happen during a few hours at a wedding or sheva brachos. But a couple of days traveling through the country together, maybe a sleepover thrown in for fun, could have made a world of a difference... even if they still didn’t want to stay for Shabbos.
As understandable as their situation might be, it seemed like Malka’s family was completely oblivious to the humans behind the simchah they came to participate in, and I don’t think there’s any excuse for that.
May we all share simchahs b’lev samei’ach!
T. C., Yerushalayim
Just Like Home [Iron Will, Soft Heart / Issue 970]
Thank you for your tribute to Rabbi Pinchas Weberman. My mother, Devorah Zuckerman Kahn a”h, and her sister, Faiga Elias a”h, widowed Holocaust survivors, lived in Miami Beach and were an integral part of Rav Weberman’s kehillah for many years. Because of that, my sister, brother, and I had the privilege of meeting the Rav and seeing the warm, chesed-saturated oasis he had built.
In my mother’s later years, when she could no longer cross the dangerous intersection to get to shul, she slept in a corner of the shul so as not to miss any davening, and to be able to set up the kiddush, dinner, and lunch that was provided to all the very special participants who would otherwise have been alone. It was most heartwarming to see that after meals, many people would stay in shul as if it was their actual home and family.
S. Tzin, RBS, Israel
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 977)
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