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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Germophobe Stirs Emotions
(“Married to a Germophobe” – Chronicles, Feb. 15)

Dear Rachel,

Reading the article about the Germophobe wife made me think of my mother, Mrs. Irene Klass, of blessed memory. From the time that I was a child, it was a common refrain in our home: “Wash your hands with soap. Lather up and scrub them, then rinse them off and dry them.” Whenever I tried to rush through the process, she would say that a job worth doing is worth doing well. Mom’s hands were always clean and white.

Sometimes after I would tell her that I had washed my hands she would show me how white hers were, and of course mine didn’t match up. As a youngster I would tell her that my skin was darker than hers, but she would take me over to the sink and show me that my hands could be as white as hers with a little more effort.

In the winter when the flu was going around, or even the common head cold, she would tell my sister and me that washing our hands well with soap was the best protection against catching whatever was going around. In fact she wrote articles on the Women’s page of The Jewish Press about this very subject.

Years later she was vindicated when doctors and health officials came out with the same conclusion.

How did your mother know, all those years ago, my friends have asked me. How did she know so very many things, long before they became common knowledge?

I can’t really answer that except to say that she was one of the smartest women I have ever known, and I miss her and all of her wise advice every day.

Naomi Klass Mauer

Dear Naomi,

Some mothers are blessed with extraordinary wisdom and common sense. To their children, this reality often begins to really sink in after they’re gone. Maybe it’s because while they’re with us we tend to take them for granted. But let’s look at the bright side — the wonderful legacy they’ve left us! Chasdei Hashem!!

Dear Rachel,

I think I can almost top the husband who feels he is married to a germophobe. My wife is a neatnik who can’t stand clutter, let alone uncleanliness. The passing of years hasn’t done anything to relax her compulsion for tidiness. She is a firm believer in “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

Here’s the clincher: Once a week, on Thursday, my wife has cleaning help. Guess what she does on those mornings? She starts cleaning up for the cleaning lady! I kid you not. Her excuses are endless: She doesn’t know where things belong… She won’t possibly get to everything… She never cleans this properly… I don’t want her touching my bed linen… I don’t want her touching my Shabbos leichter… I don’t like the way she folds the laundry… and inevitably: I hope she won’t show up; she just gets in my way.

Rachel, we’re not youngsters anymore and my wife simply can’t do what she used to. I try telling her that the extra help is for her own good, but her lament continues to replay itself week in and week out.

Last Thursday while the cleaning lady was busy in another part of the house I walked in to find my wife polishing the kitchen tabletop. “Why are you going to the trouble when you have someone here who is getting paid to do it for you?” I asked.

My wife’s reply: “I can’t serve her lunch on this dirty table.” The “dirt” was a few cookie crumbs I had left there earlier, with maybe a couple of my fingerprints visible on the glass surface — point being that she is cleaning up for the cleaning lady. Is that absurd or what?!

She might kill me for this, but I believe my wife cleans the toilet so that the cleaning lady won’t see it, or need to use it, in its “unclean” state.

In your response to the husband who claims to be married to a germophobe, you asked him to picture himself living with a careless slob. Just to make it clear, I’d choose my fastidious wife any day (Thursdays as well). To be honest, even our grown kids gush about how “neat” it is to come home to an orderly environment when they visit and have many times conceded that when they were younger it felt great to be home after staying with friends whose houses were in complete disarray.

As you’ve said in the past, Rachel, life is not perfect. Thanks for giving us a forum to kvetch in.

Feel better already

Dear Feel,

My vibes tell me that your wife has lots of company (besides which good help is not easy to come by). Regardless, you may want to encourage your wife to replace her current help with someone she would feel more at ease with.

Patience goes a long way in training even the best domestic help to perform to one’s liking. Many women are prone to turning a blind eye or just leave their housemaids to do their own thing, but those of us who stand around and watch incompetence at work are bound to become unnerved and steel ourselves against snatching that mop or shmatte right out of the klutz’s hands.

This is just one of those things that are not apt to change. To put it in perspective, the crooked painting on the wall does not bother some people, while others won’t rest until they’ve straightened it. If this were our greatest concern today, we’d be in fine shape.

Editor’s note: Regrettably, an error in the letter by Hindy K. (see Chronicles, Feb. 15) had the name of the Rabbi stated incorrectly. The sentence in its entirety should have read, “Words cannot describe the hakorat hatov that we feel toward our wonderful Rabbi Jay Weinstein and this amazing community.”

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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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