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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Readers Ask: What Are We To Do?


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

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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.

It has been the sad lot of our people to make the same mistakes again and again.  Incredibly, we refuse to see the world as it is and we instead create our own rose-colored reality. We assure one another, “There is no anti-Semitism…we live in a free democratic society and there is nothing to fear. We can’t allow some crazy fanatics to push the panic button.”

So we lull ourselves back to sleep. But time marches relentlessly on, and with each day world events become all the more menacing.

In the face of all this, I have spoken out and continue to speak out; I have written and continue to write. There is a great difference however, between these two mediums. When I speak, it’s easy for me to feel the pulse of the audience, the energy in the room; but writing a newspaper column is different. There are no eyes, no facial expressions to tell me, “I am with you. I understand!”

But this past week I received a large number of e-mails from readers who signaled their total support for what I’ve been writing. They wanted to know what they could do and what is the next step required of them. I was strengthened to know there are so many who are listening and that the beautiful neshamas of our people stand ready to do their share to respond to the challenges of the moment.

I will share with you two such e-mails and, b’ezrat Hashem, in my next column I will address the problem.

Letter 1

Dear Rebbetzin:

I am a subscriber and I love your books and your column. But in reading your last two columns, I was left with something missing.  While there are too many Jews who aren’t paying attention, there are plenty of us who are. And while we hear the alarm, we don’t know that to do about it beyond what we’re already doing. We are davening, learning Torah and trying to do mitzvot. But while I am sure that there is more we can do, I don’t know what that is.

Thank you for your time and effort on behalf of Klal Yisrael.

Letter 2

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis tichye until 120:

I read your column with great interest. Although we are a young couple, my husband and I have been saying the same thing. It is obvious that the world atmosphere is very much like it was in pre-Holocaust Europe when the very air was poisoned with anti-Semitism. My husband absorbed this from books he has read and from the stories of  the older generation of survivors. But we lack direction as to what we should do. We try to be good Jews; we beseech Hashem for His protection.

We try to do chesed, and we try to avoid machlokes – strife – which nowadays can be found everywhere. We study Torah, we deal honestly with others, but with all that, there must be something more that we can do – something that will actually make a difference in Hashem’s Master Plan. But we do not know what that may be.

Throughout our history, we can see the same pattern repeated again and again: anti-Semitism, war, and then calm. It is obvious that Hashem wants us to realize we can depend only on Him for protection. Tragically, however, people today believe money can save them. Although the economy is sinking and people are losing their holdings, they believe the government will protect them despite all indications to the contrary.

Our generation fails to realize that the farther we go from Hashem, the more hazardous our plight will be. I can only try to correct myself and reach out to our brethren to the best of my ability, but what else can we do to change the global anti-Semitism? What would you advise? How can I evoke Hashems mercy?

It occurred to me that we should focus on eliminating sinas chinam (baseless hatred between Jew and Jew) a plague which prevails among all segments of our people, religious and secular alike. My son went to a chassidic Talmud Torah where my husband learned as a child and I went to the girl’s school. Since those days, however, a younger generation has taken over and changed their policies. They say they no longer have room and can not longer afford to support children from other chassidic groups.

My son was  not accepted in the yeshiva ketana and  we had  no other choice of schools in this city. I had to send my son away at an early age where every Shabbos he had to go to strangers. Additionally, he has some major food allergies and between the poor food in his yeshiva and the moldy dorm, he became bitter. Baruch Hashem, this year he is going to a different yeshiva, but still has to seek Shabbos hospitality from strangers. 

As for the yeshiva in my city, all children who are not members of that chassidic group are being kicked out. If our leaders truly believed in Hashem, they could have worked together in unity. My son was the first korban, the first casualty. Hashem probably knew we would pass this nisayon more easily than others.

Achdus – unity – evokes mercy for our people, but unity is missing today. The young ones feel everything belongs to them. They do what they want and then wonder why anti-Semitism exists. Please guide me on how to approach the subject of achdus and how to live a proper Jewish life in today’s turbulent times.

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