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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Another Family Torn Asunder


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

My previous two columns focused on the fragmentation that has affected one frum family. Many readers may consider the story described to be a rare occurrence. I wish this would be the case. To be sure, each family crisis is its own unique tragedy, but the common thread of hatred is always there.

I’ve received countless comments in response to those two columns, all verifying that family breakdown prevails in many more homes than we could have imagined. I cannot possibly share all the e-mails and letters that have reached my desk, but here is one of them:

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I read the letter from the anguished mother with deep felt pain and empathy. I read your response as well and it was like a knife in my heart. I read the words you quoted from your father, zt”l, and I broke down and wept. I read how after your family was liberated from the concentration camps, your father implored Jews to reach out to their brethren with love – “After such a cataclysmic conflagration, we have to kiss and embrace with love every Jew.”

Your father’s words touched a sensitive chord in my soul. My parents also went through the Holocaust, and yet one of my siblings did exactly that which the anguished mother wrote about – he built a wall of hatred that has poisoned and continues to poison the entire mishpachah.

For a reason no one can explain, my brother and his wife shut the door on my parents and terminated all relationships with us, his siblings. We were not invited to any of the simchas. My parents were tolerated but not welcomed as bubbies and zeides should be. Years have passed and today the cousins do not know each other.

Time and again my parents tried to reach out to them. I, along with my brothers and sisters did the same, but we weren’t successful. When my parents attended their simchas they were treated with disrespect, but for the sake of shalom they went. They continued to hope things would change.

My father passed away four years ago with a broken heart, and my poor mother is ill and can no longer get about. This was the naches of their old age – to have survived the Nazis, to have seen their entire families disappear in smoke, only to see the blessing of children and grandchildren disappear once again in flames. But this time it’s different – the flames are flames of hatred have been kindled by a son and his wife.

But the horror doesn’t stop there. I often hear of the phenomenon called “copycat crimes.” Somehow, I could never identify with it. Surely only sick minds could be enticed by such horrible atrocities. Murders such as we saw in Aurora, Colorado, must be satanic aberrations. Surely “normal” people would not slaughter others, would not be influenced by the violence on the movie screen and the Internet.

But, painfully, I have learned that even so-called normal people can emulate satanic behavior. Unbelievably, the same thing that plagued my parents and siblings is being replayed in my own home. My eldest son has learned from his uncle and aunt and built walls of hatred of his own.

My son has no backbone and it is his wife who calls the shots. She decided our family was not for her, and my son goes along with her. So now I am seeing the ultimate tragedy – hatred being passed from generation to generation.

I wonder when this sinas chinam will come to an end. Even as my parents did with my brother and his wife, I try to reach my son and his wife – but all my attempts are rejected. I’ve been scorned and degraded. I’m blamed for everything. My children discovered that in our society, not accepting responsibility is the way to go; it’s always someone else’s fault.

I keep the doors of communication open for the sake of my grandchildren. I try to bear in mind that I am a bubbie and that my priority must be my innocent grandchildren. I have been told that nowadays, if you want to have a good relationship with your children, you have to keep your mouth zipped and your pocketbook open.

I am not suggesting parents are perfect, but the Fifth Commandment never stipulated that only perfect parents are deserving of respect. I no longer discuss this subject with my son because he will always defend his wife. I tried to invite them to my home to talk to them with patience and love. But it has not worked. I never dreamed I would live to see my parents’ awful dilemma repeated in my own life.

I had to learn not to make this tragedy about me. I had to learn to put a smile on my face so that one day my grandchildren will have a bubbie to remember.

I’ve written this with the prayer that people might learn the tragic consequences that can result from a torn family – consequences that can pass from one generation to another.

I realize there are no easy answers. I do not expect a response or a solution. I do, however, hope you will share this with your many readers so that they will resolve to live their lives differently.

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