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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 2/05/10

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Dear Rachel,

Your column recently featured a letter from a woman whose divorced friend is supposedly involved with a married man (Chronicles 1-1-10). Though your answer was excellent, you seemed to have ignored one glaring detail: the Yenta factor. How can you take this woman’s word for fact?

Sure, they say that where there’s smoke there’s fire, but one still cannot rely on hearsay; gossip’s got to be taken for what it is: gossip. Some people just like talking about other people’s private lives.

Even if the letter’s author is a so-called “close” friend or sees herself as being a close observer, she presented her own point of view, from her side of the fence, as she perceives it. We haven’t heard from the woman herself, have we? Is one person’s perspective really enough to go by?

Your warning to single women who hook up with married men was right on the mark. But I also would have told “Fearful ” to get a life and stop living her friend’s.

She may think she’s got the inside scoop, but chances are that she’s on the outside looking in and doesn’t have a clear picture.

Wary of Gossipmongers

Dear Wary,

How right you are! Fortunate is the person who manages to escape the scandalmonger’s tongue in his or her lifetime. To set your mind at ease and the record straight, whenever this column receives a third party report, the likelihood of exaggeration, misinformation or misconception is always taken into consideration. Nonetheless, when a letter addresses a universal theme that plays out daily among us vulnerable mortals everywhere, my response is geared accordingly. In this instance, the reply indeed spoke to all single women who may be finding themselves ensnared in similar dilemmas.

Dear Rachel,

“Fearful for my friend” hit a raw nerve! I am also acquainted, though not really friends, with a divorced woman (with three impressionable teenagers) who recently married a man with some very serious issues.

He used to be part of another congregation in our area; he came every week to services, attended a weekly hashkafa class given by the rabbi and hung around the shul office daily kibitzing with the staff. I don’t think he had a real job, or maybe he had one with very flexible hours and came and went as he pleased.

A regular at the Rabbi’s Shabbos table, he and the Rabbi had a serious falling out. It seems that that this man’s idea or suggestion for some activity program was politely vetoed by the Rabbi for not meeting with the standards of the shul. Apparently, this man hit the ceiling, tried to crash board meetings to get the Rabbi terminated, wrote poison pen letters and even fabricated some tall tales.

There are many other unsavory details of incidents in various settings that paint this man as unscrupulous and untrustworthy. My reason for writing is that this divorced woman, now his wife, schleps him to our shul and takes him to yeshiva functions where her boys are students.

Obviously this woman is not playing with a full deck. She lived next door to this man for years and is well aware of his personality. Of course, you can’t tell someone whom to marry; besides, this woman is the type that doesn’t listen to anyone. It’s just such a shame for her kids that he is the role model she chose.

Our dilemma? We would like to politely tell this woman who chooses to daven in our shul that she not bring her new husband – but we can’t arrive at a decision as to how to convey this. After the problems he caused at other shuls and establishments in the neighborhood, our congregation does not want to become his next target of aggression.

As I see it, this man is a walking time bomb and we believe that he really could become a danger to others. This is rapidly becoming a big problem in our shul. How should we handle this distressing situation?

Would appreciate any advice

Dear Would,

“As I see it” is not good enough. Even if this man is widely known as a troublemaker, until he evokes the wrath of the person(s) in charge of his new surroundings, there is not much that can be done. Then it will be up to the Rabbi or a person of authority to take steps to rectify the state of affairs.

It is furthermore not your place to “tell this woman not to bring her husband” to daven in your shul. This would be rude and humiliating and may burden the object of your insulting demand with needless distress. Rather than contemplating the taking of negative action, consider focusing on the positive steps you can take. For instance, in view of your personal opinion of her situation, you should be practicing extra kindness towards this woman who, it would seem, has enough on her plate at home. The same can be applied to her young children who could be in dire need of some special attention, warmth and positive influence from outside sources.

If you are by chance hoping to get the message out to this woman via this column, don’t keep your hopes up too high. People don’t generally see themselves as others see them.

And if this man is truly as problem-ridden as you suggest (much revealing detail in your original letter has been omitted, for the obvious reason), perhaps someone close to them will care enough to intervene in a beneficial way and get them the help they may be desperately in need of.

Confidential to S&B: Keep the faith and keep smiling. It’s the only way to advance…

* * * * *

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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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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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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