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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/29/07

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Dear Rachel,

I was wondering if you might print this letter as I could really use some guidance.

I am at my wit’s end and in dire need of recommendations from your intelligent and sensible readers.

I am this close (please keep these two words as one) to having Jewish Family Services remove a Yiddishe neshama from her so called ‘home.’

Allow me to explain. A well-known acquaintance, “Rochel” (not her real name), to whom my family, I, and many others in the community have stretched out their hearts (and pocketbooks) by helping with money, food, driving regularly to doctor’s appointments and many other services, has figured out how to navigate the system wherein everyone in the community is at her beck and call. Rochel has an illness that appeared later on in life, and if there’s an organization that gives, Rochel is there to accept.

I am completely fine with all of this. What I am not fine with and extremely uncomfortable with – is that Rochel has one child, a girl, with whom she resides. There is no husband to speak of and no communication with him whatsoever. Rochel’s daughter, “Rivka” is a perfectly normal child. For a period of time she lived with her grandmother and was given back to her mother when Rivka was probably entering the 7th grade, or a bit earlier.

This past summer, Rivka was “privileged” to be a “camper” in a camp that caters to terminally ill, cancer stricken, and/or children who have diseases that need chemotherapy or require monitoring for heavy doses of medicine! Rochel got Rivka in as a sick child! I am literally crying as I write this letter. Rivka is not sick, her mother is!

Please tell me how Rivka was able to work as a counselor in a local day camp in Brooklyn for the second half of the summer whilst being so “ill?”

Today, Rivka, having just finished a prominent local Yeshiva High School has a very busy schedule. No, she is not in a local seminary. She does not have a job. Rochel has consumed herself with taking Rivka to different doctor appointments creating illnesses that her daughter does not have! The rest of the time, Rivka is busy doing errands for her mother.

I know there is a name for this illness called Munchausen’s, wherein parents create scenarios for their children, fabricating illnesses or psychological trauma in order to draw attention or sympathy. This is what Rochel is doing and, to boot, has Rivka creating lies about her daily activities.

Please tell me, dear Rachel, how can I sit back and allow this mother to ruin her child’s life?

Frustrated in Brooklyn

Note: Rochel, if you recognize yourself, please accept this as an appeal to save your daughter!

Dear Frustrated,

Your story is a sad one – and has me completely baffled. Have Rochel and Rivka no family at all who would be able to wield influence and have a say in how Rivka is being raised? (Where is that grandmother with whom the child lived for a time?) Where are the organizations that have helped Rochel? How is it that Rivka was allowed to remain under the care of her obviously disturbed mother? What happened to her teachers and school counselors? And don’t camps evaluate applicants to determine eligibility?

Munchausen Syndrome is a disorder that has the afflicted individual feigning illness in order to gain attention and sympathy. Such persons are, furthermore, at risk of inflicting an injury in order to garner the attention they seek.

Baruch Hashem we are a charitable people, but the simple act of giving is not always the solution. Many times a person needs help to help him/herself, and consistently being handed what one needs to sustain oneself on a daily basis does little to nothing in rescuing that individual from his/her unfortunate predicament. The better and more meritorious method of charity is to help ensure another’s future viability and self-efficiency.

You’ve appealed to our readers. Hopefully, someone out there can clue us in, and perhaps offer you and those who genuinely feel for this tragic mother and daughter some constructive advice.

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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