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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/16/09

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Reader Sentiment Roused…

Dear Thirty-Something,

I have read and reread your beautiful and emotional letter (Chronicles 12-5). There is no bitterness in your words, and for this I admire you very much. You story reads like an identical version of my own dating experience. And I want to write you to give you chizuk.

Like you, I was a professional, self-supporting woman. My parents worked very hard to put me through undergraduate and graduate school, a luxury that they could not easily afford. Both of my parents felt that an education was key to a successful life. My father grew up during the Depression and knew what it was like not to have warm clothing and an abundant amount of food, while my mother survived the horrors of Europe. Neither had the opportunity for higher education. They also felt that when a couple embarked on marriage, they should have the means to support themselves.

The message that I received from my parents and grandparents was that “a good heart” was the most important thing to look for in a prospective mate. And so, dear friend, I was floored, humiliated and angry as I began to date Orthodox men who were more interested in my cooking abilities, height and weight, and financial status. How insulting, I thought. Why weren’t they looking for a fine young lady with middos and charm?

And so, like you, after many years of dating in this arena, where I was just another “girl on the list,” I realized that I needed to look outside this box. I was in search of a man who would not regard me as just another name on a checklist, but as a real, educated and fine person.

And with the help of Hashem and many evenings of making phone calls, I met a wonderful man who is now my husband! He is a man who always had a love and feel for Yiddishkeit, even though his family was not shomrei mitzvos. He had a love for Torah, but did not attend yeshiva.

When our dating became serious, I needed reassurance that if we were blessed with children, there would be no compromising on a yeshiva education. To my joy, he agreed and we married.

Yes, there are challenges. I do not have the pleasure of hearing my husband daven for the amud, or recite the Haftarah… I don’t have extensive divrei Torah at my Shabbos table… but my husband loves me for who I am, not for my size or status. And I could never have accepted anything less.

Been there, done that

Dear Rachel,

Though you may choose not to print my letter, just writing it will give me some comfort.

Comfort, you ask? Yes, comfort. I refer to the article that was printed in your column by Disgusted, but not surprised (Chronicles 12-19). The writer, a young woman, basically labeled an entire community negatively. What a shame! What a case of Jewish anti-Semitism or “Sinas Chinam!”

From my experience, labeling and generalizing is never productive or effective. There are nice people in Timbuktu and there are nice people in Kalamazoo . . . you pick and sift through people and their actions and find the good.

I’ve lived in Boro Park all my life and encounter many different types of people. If you look for the good, you will find it! And when an episode needs to be addressed, one should certainly speak up… without enmity, and without labeling and writing off an entire community.

Since you harbor such a distorted view, you may want to do yourself a favor by doing your shopping elsewhere, my friend, and staying away from Boro Park.

In short, I repeat − there are hundreds of kind and wonderful people in Boro Park, Baruch Hashem. If you have an issue, speak up nicely!

And last but not least, you can’t please all the people all the time.

And if the letter-writer would work on herself and her happiness first, she would be a much happier and positive person − no matter where she would find herself, Boro Park included. Improvement starts with an “I”!!

Thanks for listening, and may the lichtikeit of Chanukah illuminate our year − all year round. Amen.

A Boro Park reader

Dear Rachel,

Regarding A loving (new) husband (Chronicles 12-26) who was disappointed at not having received wedding gifts from some of his friends: I was almost 40 when I found my life partner. Not about to skimp on the festivity of a lifetime, my kallah and I (sparing our aged parents from dipping into their modest retirement savings) went all out in making certain that our wedding would be a beautiful and most memorable affair.

Though we’d have probably done the same regardless, we were quite shocked at how many guests gave us nothing. The only logic we could apply (in some instances) is that the many friends who came from out of town incurred traveling expenses (airline ticket, etc.) and may have considered this as their monetary contribution.

And we would never have considered severing friendships over this.

Still friends

Dear Rachel,

While your reply wonderfully addresses the “bigger” question, how about the tension between the newly married couple, (as described by A loving (new) husband)?

As a professional counselor, I would have told him that the challenges of marriage are such that every day two different human beings of different sexes, raised in different homes, etc., who have pledged to share their lives, will find things to disagree about, and that they must learn to resolve their differences by discussion, by mutual respect, by putting their love for each other at the front and letting everything else fall behind it.

And, most of all, for frum couples to realize that in most arguments there is NO “right” and “wrong” − only a difference of opinion that they must work out between them while developing their own styles, standards and values.

Your Canadian admirer

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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