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Inbox: Issue 978

“Every parent of a special-needs child fears the day they will no longer be around to care for them”


My Experience Was Different [Works for Me / Issue 977]

It was bittersweet to read Shaina Keren’s response to the man asking about whether to turn his side hustle into a business.

Mrs. Keren’s advice sounded wise and responsible, and I hope that works for the person who asked, or anyone else who read it. But I was amused at how she made it sound like any decent boss would surely support his employee through this sort of transition, keeping him on payroll and encouraging him to grow the side business. Unfortunately, that was not my experience.

I was in a similar situation several years ago; I was very appreciative of the opportunities and experience I gained at my job, but I also knew that I could not be an employee forever. I knew I had the skill and ability to open my own business, and would be overqualified for my job within a matter of time.

I started taking side jobs in an industry that used the skills I had gained while at my company, but completely unrelated to the services my boss provided, and in a completely different market. Like Mrs. Keren, I thought my boss would be happy for me and we’d come to a mutually workable three-year plan for me to slowly scale back and invest in my business, which on my side, would include finding and training a replacement.

I couldn’t have been more naive. As soon as I raised the topic formally, my boss became a different person. Until then, we had enjoyed a very positive relationship, but once I stated clearly that my long-term plan was to branch out on my own, it was as if he didn’t hear the second part of the statement — the part where I put forth a detailed proposal for how to make this happen responsibly.

Instead, he pulled up my contract, which I’d signed years earlier, and started highlighting phrases out of context, that he said indicated that I was not allowed to go into the line of business I was considering (this later proved to be incorrect, by both legal and halachic standards). And he gave me an ultimatum: all-in, or all-out.

After the initial shock, and a lot of deliberation and consulting with my rav and business consultants, I took the leap and resigned from that position, and threw myself into my own business from scratch, full time.

It was a huge risk, and a very challenging few years, with a lot of uncertainty and second-guessing, and way more loan-taking than I’d ever thought I’d be comfortable with.

Baruch Hashem, my business has stabilized and thrived, and is now providing well for my family, but it took a lot of work to get here, and I would not recommend it to anyone. In fact, I’d suggest exactly what Mrs. Keren did, but perhaps she can write another column directed to bosses in this situation, and how they can handle themselves in a way that protects their interests, but also encourages their employees.

Current bosses do not have a monopoly on business ownership, and many employee positions in frum small businesses are not viable on the long term for a frum male who needs to support a family in the 21st century. The same employees who invest their talent and energy into growing your business have the right to try and do the same for themselves, and if they aim to do so in a menschlich, professional way, you will gain nothing by intimidating them into doing what’s most convenient for you.

If there are any bosses out there who do act the way Mrs. Keren supposes, kudos to you! You can probably attest that this approach has not impacted your business negatively, and probably to the contrary.

Hatzlachah to all,

A. W., Brooklyn, NY


Too Brash? [Trust Fund Serial]

I am absolutely loving Ariella Schiller’s new serial, Trust Fund. I know people from very wealthy families who experience real challenges thanks to the standards they place on themselves.

A cousin of mine recently moved away for this reason. Her husband is from an incredibly wealthy family, and he was desperate for the fame of his last name to stop following him. So they moved across the country.

Two things happened. For starters, everyone still knew who they were and the jabs and wisecracks were still there. Second, the kids constantly look so lost.

In their previous location, they had been part of something big and beautiful. They had an identity. They were proud of who they were, and it felt right for them.

Having pride in being part of something larger is integral to kids’ growth. For whatever reason, my cousins felt that the extended family was stifling their nuclear family’s personal growth, and I give them lots of credit for their bravery, idealism, and initiative. But in the process, they seem to have lost their kids.

I am not in this position, but I wonder if there’s a way to create boundaries without being so brash. Maybe Akiva didn’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

R. W.


Continued Influence [What My Rebbi Taught Me / Issue 976]

Thanks for the beautiful feature illustrating how so many rebbeim and morahs made such an impression on their students that they still carry the inspiration so many years later.

Rabbi Moshe Dov Heber wrote about how his s’gan menahel had him on his mind and how he helped guide him get to his flight in time. As a rebbi in Yeshiva K’tana of Waterbury, Rabbi Heber takes it to the next level. He not only guides his students to where they need to get to, he helps them take off and soar. He makes every student feel like they can fly and reach the stars.

Rabbi Heber goes so beyond what a typical rebbi does, and is such an inspiration both in and out of yeshivah. He also continues to encourage and build previous talmidim at every occasion. From the middle school mishmar program that he devotes every evening to, to the dedication to minyan that he instills in his talmidim during their bar mitzvah year, his devotion continues to influence and inspire our boys long after they finish sixth grade.

On behalf of the entire community, thank you Rabbi Heber for all that you do for our boys!

Grateful Waterbury Parents


Special but Hidden [What My Rebbi Taught Me / Issue 976]

We were overjoyed to read the most beautiful write-up about our beloved Year Three teacher, Mrs. Halberstam! None of her students could ever forget the love and joy with which she taught us; her glowing smiles, or her detailed illustrations that brought the lessons to life.

She is one of those teachers that will remain with us forever!

Thank you for bringing to light the special but hidden things our dedicated teachers are doing the world over.

BCLs Year Three of 2011 

London, UK


Middos Before Efficiency [The Kichels / Issue 975]

I loved the Kichels strip about all of our carpooling sagas. (Bracha Stein, how do you know?!)

It reminded me of the year my son was in a carpool for an after-school learning program. It was a low pressure, “come when you want,” kind of atmosphere, and… it was right around supper/homework/bedtime.

I tried my best to always be on time — it was certainly important to me, and I always appreciate all efforts to be responsible and efficient. That said, this scenario was a little more relaxed, and settling all my kids with a less than ideal babysitter (or my ten-year-old daughter) took a few extra unexpected minutes at times.

If I was ever two minutes late, I started getting texts from the other mothers along the lines of “reminder: it’s your turn tonight.” Then, my son would get comments and grumbling from the other boys in the carpool about our lateness. It made him feel all tense and anxious every time it was our turn. And for no reason.

In my opinion, it all comes back to middos. I think all of us parents have to tone down the pressure we put on our carpool members, and use it as a moment to practice understanding, patience and compassion with our kids. Efficiency training is for another time.

L. M., Lakewood, NJ


Compassion First [Open Mic / Issue 970]

I’d like to respond to the opinion pieces and subsequent letters that advised not giving special dispensations to the special needs population. I feel differently and would like to ask readers: please don’t help by “not helping.”

If Hashem hasn’t given you the nisayon of raising a special-needs or disabled child, practice compassion. Unless you are in a Special Ed teaching capacity, there is no need to task yourself with the responsibility of teaching them how to wait their turn or how to act in regular society.

Please trust that I’m doing my best with my special child even though she may look like she understands more and is capable of waiting in line or behaving better. Unbeknownst to you, she might actually need the accommodation. Instead of judging, smile and offer to help… and trust that I can make the right decision for her.

The reality is that as much as we wish all special children can acclimate into society, some (most?) of them cannot. If you’d join my Shabbos table, my drive upstate, or my family simchahs, you’d see for yourself that our lives aren’t simple.

Please don’t put your head in the sand and pretend that all special-needs individuals are capable of the same things others are. Fear not that society will spoil these individuals by allowing them to cut the line.

Our essence as Klal Yisrael is to be rachmanim and gomlei chasadim. Lend a hand, give a smile, and show your own children that we take care of the less fortunate.

Every parent of a special-needs child fears the day they will no longer be around to care for them. Will she be surrounded by others that are caring and helpful? Who will look out for her? Train your eyes, and those of your children, to notice that disadvantaged fellow in the wheelchair and remember that as much as he’d like to be just like you, he actually isn’t.

Rachel L.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 978)

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