For the past few weeks I have been writing about the crisis our Jewish community is witnessing, a crisis reminiscent of pre-Holocaust Europe that caught the Jewish community sleeping and unawares.
My column usually focuses on guiding and advising those who have difficulty navigating the turbulent waters that challenge their personal lives. From time to time I depart from that format to comment on the issues that affect our very lives as a people. Of late this has occurred more frequently than usual. Events are unfolding so rapidly that before we can absorb one, another befalls us.
Yes, I’m afraid. When I say these words, most people do not understand, and they attribute my fears to the fact that I am a survivor and live in the shadow of my Holocaust experiences.
Last week I interrupted a series of columns on the subject of “holiday mayhem,” concerning the problems faced by many families whose adult children come home for Yom Tov with their families.
I am interrupting my series on “Yom Tov Mayhem,” focusing on adult children who come home for the holidays with their families and expect their mothers to be cook, housekeeper and baby-sitter all rolled into one.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I have been a reader for many years. I realize that lately you have been focusing on very serious subjects that pertain to the very life of our people, so I do not know whether you will publish my letter, which deals with family problems. I hope, however, that you will do so, not because it will change my family situation - it is too late for that - on the chance that others might learn from it.
In the early years of Hineni, I spoke to a standing room only audience at Binyanei Haouma in Yerushalayim. As I looked out from the stage, I noticed there was a large contingent of frum people present, and on the spot I created a story to share with them.
Yom Kippur approaches and memories crowd my mind. I see my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt"l. I see his holy countenance; I see his beautiful face, upon which the Shechinah rested. I hear his voice - a voice that penetrated the heart. Those who heard it never forgot it.
Many moons ago, when I established Hineni, kiruv - outreach - was a foreign concept. The Orthodox world looked askance at the idea. "You're wasting your time," I was told. "Maybe they will become observant for a day, or even a few weeks, but then they will go back to their former life style."
In my last column I wrote of that which we must do in response to the wake-up calls that have been knocking incessantly at our doors these past few months.
That which transpired during these past few weeks should have shaken us all. To be sure, traumatic events have been pounding away at American Jewry for years now - as a matter of fact, from 9/11 on. But few of us have taken them to heart. Something was happening and is happening in the world, but we choose not to see or hear. It's easier to attribute everything to natural causes because then we can go on our merry way and indulge in business as usual.
Last week I concluded my column with the story of a Jew who wanted to make changes in the world and inspire people to do teshuvah - to return to their roots, their Divine heritage.
Last week I wrote that we are now at a very critical juncture in our long history. We have entered the period of ikvesie d'Mashiach - a time of travail when the footsteps of the Messiah can be discerned. We are receiving wake-up call after wake-up call, and they come in many shapes and forms. Hashemis sounding the alarm, but we remain deaf to its implications.
"Not again!" you may say. To which I respond, "Yes, again!" I say this as I write once again about the most heinous tragedy that could have befallen us, so even though it may not be popular - even though your reaction may be, "We heard it already" - I am nevertheless writing because I fear we have returned to business as usual.
In my last column I wrote about Leiby Kletzky and what I experienced when I made a shiva call to his family. My plan was to continue writing about this tragedy and focus on what we must learn from it and do. In the interim, I received a letter from a non-Jewish reader and felt I should share it.
Our Jewish world has been shocked, shaken to the core. We are all speechless in face of the tragic, monstrous, inhuman act perpetrated against a sweet, precious, innocent, holy little boy lovingly called Leiby.
Dear Rebbetzin: I am a 62-year-old Conservative Jew, recently retired from teaching and planning to relocate to Florida. My three children are all married and living in different parts of the world: a daughter in Jerusalem, one son in Toronto, another son in California. Those living in Jerusalem and Toronto have become very Orthodox, while the son living in California is totally uninterested in religion. As a matter of fact, he is married to a non-Jewish woman. As you can see, there is no happy medium in my family, but I cannot interfere in the lifestyle choices of my children.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: My mother lives with me and needs a great deal of attention, as do my four children. It seems as if everyone is pulling at me at once, and I don't know in which direction to turn first. All this stress has definitely affected my mental and physical health. I suffer from backaches and stomach trouble and lack the patience necessary to be a good wife and mother.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I am writing you regarding a situation I have come to realize is much more common among couples than people realize. The subject is infertility. My husband and I have been married fifteen years and have had serious medical problems having children from the start of our marriage.
Some years ago, I came across a Polish-Jewish newspaper published in the early thirties. It was a time when the winds of anti-Semitism were blowing throughout Europe, with particular force in Poland. I searched through every page of the paper and was appalled to find not even a hint of the tragedy that was looming for the Jewish people.
The world has again become a barbaric jungle. Ferocious beasts are ready to pounce on Israel. As a survivor of the Holocaust, I have for a long time now smelled the same noxious fumes that engulfed pre-Holocaust Europe, but no one wants to pay heed. It is always easier to dismiss such warnings as unfounded paranoia or products of the scarred minds of those who survived that hell on earth.
Back when we established Hineni, kiruv - outreach - was practically a foreign concept. The observant community had no confidence in these "newcomers" to Torah. "They will never last," people warned me. "For a brief while," they conceded, "it may work, but they have no real commitment, and their involvement is fleeting." As for secular Jews, their attitudes ranged from hostility to outright suspicion and fear.
Some years after the Six-Day War, I was invited to address the IDF as well as various communities in Israel. In the euphoria that followed the spectacular victory of the Six-Day War, gratitude to Hashem, proclaiming His guiding hand, was blatantly missing.
I've often written and said that we are living in remarkable but dangerous times in which we can hear (provided we know how to listen) the footsteps of the Messiah. Ours, however, is a generation that has difficulty hearing.
Those of you who have heard me speak or who read my columns and books know that whenever I opine on a subject I try to base what I say or write on our Torah and the teachings of our sages. There are so many things taking place so rapidly in front of our eyes that before we can absorb one event, another one unfolds. This rapid succession is so overwhelming that it allows us no time to think.