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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
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A Parent’s Anguish


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

This is the most painful letter I’ve ever written. I’ve been through many horrific experiences. My parents were survivors of the Holocaust; they were shattered people. I know you will understand this since you too are a Holocaust survivor.

The scars of that period never heal in those who went through it. As much as my parents celebrated, as much as they laughed and rejoiced, the nightmare was forever with them. My parents raised us with much love. They literally lived for us. They saw their entire families wiped out and now their children represented all that was lost. They never felt a need take a vacation alone – when they did go away it was always with us, their children.

This was the nurturing I was exposed to, and I brought up my own children the same way. They were always my first priority. I was always home for them. I was always there for them. This was equally true of my husband.

As we know, at the bris of every baby boy we say a berachah that the child may merit to enter the covenant of Torah, chuppah and ma’asim tovim. Yes, the dream of Torah-committed parents is different from that of secular parents, whose hope is that the child will grow up to be successful, which in our society means to make loads of money.

Every Friday evening when I lit Shabbos candles I took an extra few moments to pour out my heart and beseech Hashem to grant my husband and me the privilege of seeing our children under the chuppah embracing a genuine Torah life.

Hashem blessed us with eight children – six boys and two girls. Baruch Hashem, all our children found good shiduchim and we saw them all under the chuppah. But very soon everything fell apart with one of them.

I once met a woman from Jerusalem who had five children, one of whom was killed while serving in the army. An insensitive person visiting her during the days of shiva foolishly said, “Thank G-d you still have four children.” She told me that remark was like a knife in her heart. If somebody has five fingers and one is amputated, would you say to that person, “Your hand is fine – after all, it’s just one finger that’s been severed”? If you lose a finger your entire hand is damaged and can no longer do that which seemed so simple only yesterday.

I often think about that woman’s story. In a way I too have lost a finger have been offered foolish consolation. “Don’t get upset, you still have seven children from whom you have nachas.” They can’t comprehend that I go to sleep and wake up with just one thought: “My child, my child, my child is missing.”

My other children are exemplary in their commitment to Torah, their devotion to mitzvos and the respect and love they show us, but this one son and his wife have caused us terrible anguish. And that anguish has taken over our lives and gives us no peace.

This one son married a girl who has agendas. I do not pretend to be a psychologist so I will not even attempt to analyze the situation. But this little wife has made a great breach in our family and destroyed our harmony, our unity. She does not talk to or recognize any of my other children, her husband’s siblings. She does not visit them and does not communicate with them. She will not allow my son to see his siblings or to visit and talk to them.

My son gives the impression that he is in accord with this. The cousins do not know each other. They are not permitted to spend time together.

Why does my son allow this? I don’t know. We all live in the same community and our family tragedy has become public knowledge. Our entire family has suffered. A hundred and one times I have tried to reach my son and daughter-in-law but it has been to no avail. The same holds true for the attempts made by my other children.

My husband and I begged, cajoled, and compromised our dignity – and our children did the same – but our son and daughter-in-law snubbed all our efforts. They locked their doors and their hearts.

And now to my immediate problem: Another simcha is coming. Their daughter – our granddaughter – is getting married. The invitations went out and while my husband and I received one, no one else in the family did. Whenever we’ve attended any of their simchas we’ve been treated very shabbily and have come to accept this. But we are at the point, having experienced this horrible divide, this sinas chinam, for so long, where we can no longer suffer silently.

The poison has infected the entire family. As mentioned, we have all tried to reach out with love. We apologized if we ever hurt them, even unknowingly. We wrote them letters. We sent them e-mails. No response. None. Meanwhile the simcha is fast approaching. Should my husband and I allow ourselves to be exposed to more shame? Should we countenance this cruelty?

We have to make a decision as to what we should do. Our options are the following: Attend and became part of this disgrace; decline the invitation; play sick; leave town and offer some excuse.

Please answer this letter in your column so that my son and/or daughter-in-law will read it.

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