web analytics
December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



A Vacuum To Be Filled (Part Two)


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

In last week’s column I published a letter from a young woman who was raised in an assimilated, Reform home, but something in her soul always yearned to make a connection with Hashem and her Jewish roots. Unfortunately however, despite the fact that she grew up in a predominantly Orthodox community in New York, no one reached out to her. None of her neighbors ever thought of inviting her for a Shabbos meal, to shul, or their sukkah, and the yearning in her heart remained unfulfilled. And so it was that she became easy prey for an evangelical missionary who enticed her into being baptized and joining a Messianic Christian sect.

For 13 long years she was a member of this group. However, she could find no peace and yearned for “Emes.” Then, one day, while visiting her parents [back in the Orthodox community where she grew up], she stopped in at the local public library where she discovered my first book, Jewish Soul On Fire. The book pierced her neshamah and her tears just flowed. At the same time, she bought an ArtScroll Chumash and read Parshas Ha’azinu. Thus, her journey home began. Today, Baruch Hashem, she is married, has two little children, and is blessed with a true Torah home.

She wrote to me to express her appreciation, and although I already responded to her privately, I felt it was important to share her experiences with you, my dear readers, so that we might learn from them and rectify the painful vacuum in our community. Her letter compelled us to ask “How?” Yes, how could it happen that a child, growing up in an Orthodox neighborhood in which Torah values prevail, could fall victim to missionaries?

How could it have happened that no one invited her for Shabbos? Where was Ahavas Yisroel (love of one’s fellow Jew)? Where was areivus – mutual responsibility? Where were these pillars of Jewish life? Why could they not protect her from those tragic 13 years?

Our Torah teaches that if a dead body is found abandoned, then the sages, the leaders of the nearest town, must make atonement and declare, “Our hands did not spill this blood” (Deut. 21: 6-7).

Could anyone in his right mind imagine that the sages would be guilty of such a heinous crime? Of course not. Nevertheless, if a man’s body is found on the road, forsaken, then the leaders of the nearest community must assume responsibility for this terrible neglect. Now if this holds true in regard to a forsaken body, we must ask ourselves how the Torah would view the abandonment of Yiddishe neshamos? The young woman’s question, “Why didn’t anyone reach out to me? Why didn’t any of my Orthodox neighbors invite me to their shul, Shabbos lunch, or their sukkah?” These are the questions that cut to the heart of the problem.

And if I may, I would like to add my own question. “How is it that no one even thought of giving this girl a book that would connect her to her Jewish faith – to Torah? Why did she have to discover my book by chance in the public library after 13 years of groping in darkness?” Who knows how many more innocent Yiddishe neshamos are being lost daily before our very eyes in our own neighborhoods?

It is for this reason that I decided to publish her letter, so that all of us might re-think and re-examine our relationship with our more secular, assimilated Jewish brethren, be they neighbors, fellow students or co-workers. The very least we can do (even if for some personal reason we cannot invite them for a Shabbos) is to offer them the gift of friendship, a book, or invitation to a Torah class.

Nowadays, Baruch Hashem, there are numerous such classes in every Jewish community. My own Torah classes take place every Tuesday evening at Kehilath Jeshurun at 125 East 85 Street at 7:30 p.m. and on Thursday evenings at the Hineni Center at 232 West End Avenue at 8:30 p.m. And if you e-mail me (rebbetzin@hineni.org) to alert me that you are bringing others I will be happy to welcome and speak to them privately.

At this point, I would like to make a disclaimer in defense of the beautiful Torah communities in New York and all over the United States. In all fairness, I believe that we can be justifiably proud of the incredible chesed in the Torah world nowadays. I know for a fact that every Shabbos, there are families hosting people who come from varied backgrounds in their homes. But, and here is the big but, this does not mean that there may not be someone who is totally disconnected to Torah residing on the very same block as an Orthodox person, without the two ever meeting.

Our 21st-century culture has conditioned us to believe that if we want to maintain peace, we have to “mind our own business” and not “meddle” in other people’s lives. So, while we may be very receptive to saying “yes” to hosting a group visiting our homes for Shabbos, we are hesitant to approach a neighbor lest we be accused of invading his or her privacy.

Thus it can happen that secular Jews living in religious neighborhoods may never experience the majesty of Shabbos, although its radiance can be glimpsed right next door. Similarly, the neighbors of this young woman may have been hesitant to approach her lest they be accused of “missionizing” or invading her privacy. Sadly, I have seen a number of examples of such incidents. Shamefully, the tensions between the religious and the irreligious living side-by-side can at times be very fierce and even ugly.

Secular Jews may feel that the Orthodox look askance at their life styles and have a holier-than-thou attitude. While in some cases, this may be valid, more often than not, these feelings are misread. Just the same, many sincere people are reluctant to reach out lest their gestures be misinterpreted.

To be sure, there are other difficulties as well. There are those in the Orthodox community who fear that the secular influence of the non-observant will negatively impact on their own families and therefore are hesitant to invite people into their homes. Then there are still others who simply feel inadequate: “What if they ask me questions and I don’t know how to respond?” they worry.

Bottom line, however, I believe that most Orthodox Jews would be happy to reach out to their brethren if they knew how to go about it. Lacking the tools, they live insulated lives, which is misinterpreted as “judgmental” by the non-observant. I encountered this very problem many moons ago, when I was privileged to launch kiruv – outreach, and while great strides have been made since those pioneering years, much still remains to be done.

The time has come to rectify the blatant neglect. Having lost six million holy neshamos, we can’t afford to lose millions more to a spiritual Holocaust. Every Jew who believes, every Jew who loves his people, must become pro-active and reach out. One day soon, G-d will ask us to give an accounting for the lost Yiddishe neshamos that were left abandoned on the highways of life – even at our own doorsteps.

Will we parrot the infamous words of Kayin, “HaShomer Achi anochi? – Am I my brother’s keeper?” or will we respond like the Patriarch Abraham who said, “Hineni – Here I am” and kindled the light of G-d in the hearts of all those with whom he came in contact.

(To Be Continued)

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Vacuum To Be Filled (Part Two)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Moshe Kachlon (L) and Avigdor Liberman (R)
Liberman’s Secret Plan to be Crowned Prime Minister
Latest Judaism Stories
Daf-Yomi-logo

Fetal Immersion?
‘The Fetus Is A Limb Of Its Mother’
(Yevamos 78a)

Joseph making himself known to his brothers

Yosef proves he is a true leader; He is continually and fully engaged in the task of running Egypt

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

When the inability cannot be clearly attributed to either spouse, the halacha is the subject of debate among the Rishonim.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Those who reject our beliefs know in their souls Jewish power stems from our faith and our prayers.

He stepped outside, and, to his dismay, the menorah was missing. It had been stolen.

Though we Jews have deep obligations to all people our obligation to our fellow Jew is unique.

In a way that decision was the first in a series of miracles with which Hashem blessed us.

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Exploring the connection between Pharaoh’s dreams and the story of Joseph being sold into slavery.

Our right to exist and our form of self-government were decided by the ruling parties.

It is clear that Tosafos maintains that only someone who lives in a house must light Chanukah candles.

If Chanukah was simply a commemoration of the miracle of the oil and Menorah, we would be hard pressed to see the connection between the reading from Parshas Nesiim and Chanukah.

“Can you hear what the dead are whispering? Leave Galut, escape to Eretz Israel-Lech lecha!”

The ‘homely’ ancient rock, discovered in 1993, adds evidence of King David’s existence.

More Articles from Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Prayer is our language: Hakol kol Yaakov – the voice is the voice of Jacob – the voice of prayer.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

When art and evil are intermingled, evil is elevated and made acceptable.

In BB, he said “You, my children are the angels of Shabbos and the licht are your beautiful eyes.”

Why does Hebrew refer to mothers-in-law as “sunshine” when society often calls them the opposite?

Boundaries must be set in every home. Parents and children are not pals. They are not equals.

The call of the shofar is eternal. It is not musical. Its magnetic allurement cannot be explained.

We recently marked the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 – that terrible day when the symbols of man’s power and achievement crumbled before our eyes and disappeared in fire and smoke. For a very brief moment we lost our smugness. Our confidence was shaken. Many of us actually searched our ways. Some of us even learned […]

One of the cornerstones of our Jewish life is chesed, kindness. Chesed can only be taught by example

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-vacuum-to-be-filled-part-two/2009/10/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: