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Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim


Mandlebaum-031612

I know I’m going to be crucified, but if the appeal I make below helps even one girl in shidduchim, then it will be worth all the fury and outrage that shall inevitably descend upon my soon-to-be beleaguered head.

The other night, I was invited to a fascinating new shidduch initiative. Endorsed by leading rabbonim and spearheaded by a few righteous women valiantly trying to transcend the spiraling “shidduch crisis” in some small but meaningful way, the concept was to bring mothers of eligible young men together with young women looking for shidduchim (members of both groups were pre-screened and issued personal and discreet invitations by the organizers) in both a balabatish setting and a dignified way.

Everybody knows that the experiences of boys in shidduchim–in contradistinction to their female counterparts–is vastly different. This is the harsh truth: The mothers of “good boys” are bombarded with shidduch suggestions on a daily basis – a veritable barrage of resumes either flooding their fax machines or pouring out of their e-mail inboxes– while those with similarly “top” daughters sit with pinched faces anxiously waiting for the phone to ring. The disparity is bare, bold-faced and veritably heartbreaking: In the shidduchparsha,” boys are constantly being courted and pursued, while the best girls’ resumes barely elicit a modicum of interest.

As a friend recently told me: “When my nephew was 19 and started shidduchim, he went out with 19-year-old girls. When he turned 20, he still went out with 19-year-old girls. He kept getting older, but the shidduchim that he was “redt” continued to be 19-year-old girls. Now he is 24 and baruch Hashem just got engaged –to a 19-year old girl.” Sadly, women do not have this same recourse.

To rectify this inequity, a few concerned mothers brain stormed together and concluded that “shidduch resumes” (which never even existed as a concept when I was dating 35 years ago) fail to accurately capture the essence of the person being “summed up” and often–especially in the case of the girls– get lost in the shuffle. One organizer told me: “The boys’ mothers barely give the girls’ resumes a passing glance–they are so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers coming their way–and it becomes a daunting task to sift through them. And the resumes themselves are severely limiting. Can you really get a genuine sense of who the girl is from the resume? What does it tell you about her personality, her character, her intellect, her neshoma? It is demeaning to reduce a girl to a few sentences.”

The rationale underlying the new shidduch initiative was this: If eligible girls would be given personal and meaningful “face time” with prospective mother-in-laws, they would be able to present their qualities far more efficaciously than a cold and lifeless curriculum vitae.

Now for my full disclosure: I am the mother (baruch Hashem) of a great boy. He is continuously sought out, “in perpetual demand” (kinehora). I should be grateful that in shidduchim, he “wields the upper hand.” But as a woman who identifies with and feels great compassion for the throngs of girls in a parallel universe who are not being chased, I feel a little sad each time the fax machine cranks out yet another resume for my son. I know full well that there are fantastic girls out there who are his equals–perhaps even his superiors–who are NOT receiving comparable treatment. They are neither being hounded nor pursued half as vigorously as he, and they are denied the latitude of choices that he receives every day. I ache for their mothers who repeatedly call the shadchanim who never call back, but are visibly more responsive if you are the mother of a boy. Inwardly, I rail against the unfairness of it all (although the shadchanim are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, whatsoever; it is the system that is at fault– not they—the stark realities of supply and demand). Thinking of the mothers who do not have the privilege to wade through as many resumes as me, I try consciously not to revel in the continuous stream that cascade over my desk. I know how fortunate my son is, and I feel for those who aren’t.

So, when one of the extraordinary women who organized this event invited me to participate, I was actually reluctant to attend. Quite simply, there was no need. But because I like and respect this woman so much, and wanted to validate her efforts, I RSVP’d “Yes.”

“How are you going to work this?” I asked. “How are you going to ensure that all the girls get equal time? Are they not going to feel degraded? Is this process not going to end up even more demeaning than a resume?”

The organizer assured me that there would be facilitators on site who would introduce each girl to every mother. The facilitator would escort the mother to the tables where the girls sat, and be hyper-vigilant that no girl gets bypassed. I wondered how many girls would feel comfortable with this arrangement and actually show up, but as I said before, I wanted to support my acquaintance’s endeavor with my physical presence, so I went.

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851 Responses to “Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim”

  1. Esther Elle says:

    Goldie Cohen Hey! also, please do check out my Original comment and lemme know how ya feel abt. that!

  2. The PROBLEM is the MOTHERS! The boys never get a choice about half the girls that are suggested because the MOTHER didn't think she was pretty enough, thin enough..smart enough…mothers need to remember that what THEY think is pretty may not be what their son thinks is pretty.
    I was a size 14-16 when I went out with my now husband. I had been told my shadchonim that I shouldn't expect many dates because lets face it, I am not a skinny mini. But 5 weeks after meeting my husband we were engaged, and today, 9 years and 3 babies later I am unfortunately a bit larger, at a size 16-18 and my husband thinks I'm even prettier than the day he met me, and loves my curves! His mother couldn't care less, whatever he liked was fine. They didn't ask what size I was or what color tablecloth we used. Mothers need to lower their standards and give some "imperfect" girls a chance. They need to remember that some boys don't like blonde hair and blue eyes. Some boys don't like brown hair or brown eyes. Some actually like curves and don't want a skinny girl. Its the Mothers that need to stop being so superficial. Gastric Bypass? Nose Jobs? Really? That makes me sick.
    Written by a "Plus Size and Proud Of It" girl who got married at 19 even though I wasnt "thin"!

  3. i agree, man. to be honest, this whole shidduch resume deal and the fact that mothers have to meet the girls and judge them first seems to be weird and not natural at all. Guys need to be able to go out on their own and experience the world, picking who they see is fit for them. The mother shouldnt have so much of a say from the beginning because they may not even know what their son wants. (son's don't always tell their mothers everything…)
    -As for getting cosmetic surgery… thats a bit absurd. but if you are going out with someone to possibly even marry them wouldn't you want to look the absolute best you can? You don't need to be a supermodel or get a face lift or a fake tan, but trying your best to look as good as you can should be common sense to anyone! First impressions do make a difference and when you first see someone that you might possibly marry it would be nice to see that they put in the effort to look their best before meeting you.

  4. Shlomo Ahuva Goldberger says:

    you go, girl!

  5. Shayna Levine-Hefetz says:

    I don't think it is just the mothers – some guys are super shallow and don't care about much more than looks. I think we need to find a way for frum singles to meet in a natural way without the "shidduch resumes." I met my husband in college – he wasn't what I would have been looking for on a shidduch resume, but he is perfect for me (and I say that after 13 years of marriage and 3 children bli yain harah) – we never would have met if we were just looking at each other on paper. I sincerely hope that the system is reformed before my children are looking to get married.

  6. Toby Klinger says:

    Wait, wait. Before you freak out, ladies. See me. http://facebook.com/tobyklingermakeup. ;-) Special discount on natural, radiant makeovers/consultations if you email me with promo code word "Achashverosh!"

  7. Amelia Weitzman Schmidt says:

    The issue here is that mothers who are telling their daughters to get nose jobs are also telling their sons that the perfect wife has the perfect nose, so these boys think their wife's nose is important. How will these boys learn otherwise unless their mothers teach them the truth – a nose job may make her nose look better, but your kids will still inherit her original nose.

  8. Andrea Malkinson says:

    She has good points. Ais lasos la'shem, after all. I have some equally good ideas of my own- single girls should begin to wear scoop necks and miniskirts to attract men better. And also, we should start dating non-jews, they're less picky, and we really must solve this crisis.

  9. Gila Olson says:

    And this is why I will never touch the shidduch system.

  10. Chani Lazerowitz Melamed says:

    Besides for so many things wrong with this article, it makes it seem like the only reason girls aren't getting married right away is because they aren't super perfect. I think I should write an article telling guys to get their acts together and get a job and stop saying no to girls because their too INTIMATED by her!

  11. As a woman, I find this article to be honest and refreshing. I don't find it degrading or shallow, and I think that those of you who will insist that "looks don't matter" are fooling yourselves. Obviously, men are attracted to women who take care of themselves, and it goes both ways. What girl wants to date a boy who doesn't put some effort into his physical appearance? It was the decision of these girls (and their parents) to enter the dating world and begin the hunt to find their husbands. That sounds like a pretty serious goal to me, and just like all goals, requires some work and effort on behalf of the young lady. Why shouldn't she put on a little makeup and some figure flattering clothes? Isn't sex a vital part of a successful marriage and therefore sexual attraction a vital part of finding a spouse? Before anyone (man or woman) goes on a date, they shower, shave, pick out their most flattering outfit etc. All the author is saying is: if you want to find a husband, put in a little effort. What is so degrading about that?

  12. Gila Olson says:

    Absolutely disgusting…this is not a solution to the so-called "shidduch crisis," this will just make the problem worse by making everyone's expectations even more sky-high. And what happens after a few years of marriage, a few pregnancies, and the girl loses her figure? Will her husband stop loving her then because she's not a size 2 anymore? I decided not to have anything to do with the shidduch system years ago, and this just reaffirms my decision.

  13. Shlomo Ahuva Goldberger says:

    my husband and i met in driver's ed when we were 15 and 16. shhhhhhhhh

  14. David Joseph Jasphy says:

    Chayim Goldberg great comment!

  15. I second that comment- You go, girl!!!

  16. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Eli, is getting plastic surgery part of looking presentable? Most of us who are commenting negatively are reacting to the author's suggestion — in more than one place in this article — that it is.

  17. Chayim Goldberg says:

    David Joseph Jasphy Thanks!

  18. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    "A little effort" should not include surgery and Botox. The author is clearly not talking about showering and dressing nicely.

  19. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    LOL, you found a cute way to plug your business.

  20. Chava Barr says:

    I could not even finish reading this article. Reading this makes me disgusted.

  21. Chani Lazerowitz Melamed says:

    Besides for so many things wrong with this article, including advocating surgery and single events for mothers of boys and single girls (HELLO huh, insane!), I do agree that girls should be putting their best foot forward and maybe wearing a little makeup (ON DATES! NOT FOR SOME INSANE SINGLE EVENT FOR MOTHERS THAT SHOULDN'T EXIST), but why isn't this lady telling the boys to be putting their best foot forward. We all know that the guys have the upper hand, but that's mainly because there are so few good guys for the vast number of great girls. Unfortunately, the guys out there are mainly sub par and girls have to dumb themselves down for them. I can't count how many times I was told that guys wont go out with me because they are intimidated by me (because I had a law degree), which to me says he isn't a MAN hes a BOY! B'h almost 2 years ago I found a MAN not a BOY :)

  22. Anonymous says:

    This is unbelievably, outrageously immoral! It is simply beyond belief! I am stunned! I do not know where to begin to respond and actually do not feel that this bizarre and evil drivel needs to be dignified with a substantive response. So I will just say that I happen to be a drop-dead-gorgeous young woman (if I do say so myself– enough other people have told me so to make me almost begin to believe it :), who even wears lipstick & such on dates, and I am still single! Of course there are literally thousands of others who share my quandary. I will also add that I suffered from an eating disorder that almost took my life several years ago. I (and my highly qualified and credentialed psychotherapists) can draw a very direct, and tragic, link between the views expressed in this article (and their publication) and my illness. All I can say for those girls and women who were not as lucky as I was to survive, is Hashem Yikom Dimam, may G-d avenge their blood, on the heads of those who've had a hand in bringing about their demise.

  23. Jackie Baratt says:

    WELL SAID!

  24. David Lerner says:

    What "crisis?" Just let them meet each other and date, for crying out loud.

  25. Sharon Baratt says:

    Not only should the guys get their acts together and get a job, they should also learn how to dress, lose the beer bellies, learn how to speak to a woman, oh the list goes on and on and on. If young women are supposed to be perfect then why not the young men?

  26. Chani Lazerowitz Melamed says:

    It's such a double standard its sickening!

  27. Michal Schick says:

    "Being presentable" is not at all what Mrs. Halberstam is talking about; the self-evidence of that "advice" is blatantly clear, given how many times that qualification has been mention in these comments. Mrs. Halberstam is talking about the natural looks of young women being inherently unacceptable to her. She is interested in standardizing acceptable appearances and institutionalizing the insecurity already experienced by almost all young Orthodox women. There are a thousand ways in which this article could have been constructive; instead, all that Mrs. Halberstam has unleashed here is unhappiness.

  28. Paul Kentor says:

    Bizarre, Sad, and Hilarious all at the same time. I think mostly hilarious as I am part of her so-called world and don't relate to most of what she says.

  29. Chana Artman Usedtobe Sharaby says:

    honestly, things need to be left to the boys. not the mothers decision whether shes pretty or not, but the girls mothers should def make sure that their daughters look decent and dont go out with lanky oily hair, and lack of coverup bec ppl do notice and it is not attractive. but on the same page too much makeup is also unattractive. and getting a nose job isnt the issue whatsoever. just look decent and put together. the end

  30. Sharon Baratt says:

    Amen!!!!!

  31. Chava Barr says:

    Chana Artman Usedtobe Sharaby I personally do not wear makeup, unless to a wedding (and even then it is minimal). I don't think makeup is a must. If they don't want you the way Hashem made you, so be it.

    If they don't want you at your worst, they don't deserve you at your best.

  32. Sara Adina Baker says:

    I LOVE my MIL dearly- but I'm pretty darned certain that, had I dated her instead of her son, I would not be married to him right now.

  33. Tehilah Kaplan says:

    1. The author walked into that room to give the girls the opportunity to present who they really are, yet really only looked at their appearances. For that, she could have just looked at the picture on the resume that had the makeup from their sister's wedding.
    2. There are women who do not wear makeup who also happen to not have a lot of self confidence. Because of today's society, some of these women can improve their self confidence by changing how they look – nutrition, hair, makeup, plastic surgery, whatever. The issue with these women has nothing to do with their looks – the issue is their lack of self confidence. I think part of the issue here is that the author still does not have self confidence, despite her nose job. Seeing young women feel comfortable in their own skin (with no masks) drives home the point of how dissatisfied she is with herself. Suggesting that everyone should go through such drastic measures makes her not different than the others.
    3. The biggest problem is that it's the mothers who want barbie daughters in law. Outside of the shidduch world, girls who wear makeup and get nose jobs don't get married any faster than those who don't. The reason for this discrepancy? Most's MEN don't care. And those who do care need to marry someone who will wear makeup every day. If a girl is not the type to wear makeup on a daily basis but puts on makeup to date, the guy is not getting a chance to get to know who she is and you have just wasted a lot of time and energy for no reason. The author states that the purpose of the event is to give the girls the opportunity to present themselves in the "best possible light". But ultimately, she is advocating presenting oneself dishonestly.
    5. The story about the Rebbe? um…….missing teeth is something that is clearly wrong – God gave us all teeth and they serve an important function. So if there is something wrong, absolutely – FIX IT! lipstick and eyeliner? yeah…..pretty normal for people to not have natural thick eyeliner and bright red lips. so there is nothing wrong, and nothing to fix. Improve? depends who you ask……not everyone likes blue eyeliner. That's in the eyes of the beholder.

    The author appeals to mothers to get plastic surgery for their daughters in the hopes that even 1 girl gets "saved". How many crazy mothers are there out there that as a result of this article will now tell their daughters to become size 0's, spend hours in front of the mirror straightening their hair, and even go as far as plastic surgery, and really damage what matters most – their daughters' insides and their self esteem?

    Truly, I feel for this woman's future daughter-in-law……personally, I'd rather stay single!

  34. Tee Green says:

    after reading this very disturbing and upsetting article, i have to say that your comment is simply the perfect comeback.

  35. Vigi Katlowitz says:

    The Beacon would be proud.

  36. D.N. Singer says:

    Oh G-d, I wanted to throw up from that article.

  37. Tehilah Kaplan says:

    Andrea Malkinson I had the same thought about letting them dress move provocatively. Comes with a lot less risk and not transgressing v'nishmartem meod lenafshotechem!

  38. Anonymous says:

    Wow, my heart is literally pounding from reading this article! Is this woman completely out of her mind? Does she even have a neshama? I would recommend to anyone who's ever considered boycotting the NY Times for its dubious moral stance on Israel that they never buy or read the Jewish Press again!

  39. Fima Shlimel says:

    Is the article intended to be satire?

  40. Natalie Keyser Grossman says:

    Totally speechless.

  41. Chayim Goldberg says:

    Tee Green Thank you- I appreciate it. We should all work together to put an end to this nonsense

  42. Heshy Fried says:

    These frummies will never learn – everything has to be so tzniusdick that you aint ever gonna get no dick

  43. Matt Berger says:

    Hahahahahaha- This was the best article I've ever read. Can't wait for those decked out ladies at the next Seforim sale.

  44. Holy crap this g is nuts

  45. Jay Marcus says:

    What's worse is this is how the new normal is. In the frum world, we are now the exceptions.

  46. Cin Cy says:

    Everyone wants to marry someone attractive, I myself am guilty of this. What is not mentioned is that my friends and I do not find the same women attractive. So by changing ones face the man that G-d intended that face attract may be attract the wrong guy. Yes she might get married sooner, but is he the right guy? Also if every woman got plastic surgery the standards of beauty would go up, just like economic inflation. It must also be said that guys suffer too, it is hard for me to get shidduchim because I’m working while perusing a masters instead of wear a black hat and sit in yeshiva, therefore I am not considered frum enough for many girls. These problems stem from the poor direction of our parents, rabbis and the social pressure that we must get marry before we are old and 21. Here is a solution let your children mature before you push them to get married that way they will be able to make real decisions about what they want not what you want for them.

  47. David Lerner says:

    Heshy Fried This invented crisis is worsened by the additional layers of de-facto self-segregation in the communities: Yeshivish marries yeshivish, MO marries MO, chassidish marries chassidish… But,

    THE SHIDDUCH CRISIS IS GOOD FOR YOUNG WOMEN

    Young women aren’t being married off at a TERRIBLY young age, thus
    They have more time after leaving school without being shackled to perpetual childbirth.
    If they get a job, they have more money and independence; they might even explore the world around them. Exploring the world may cause them to leave.
    I am not saying that these girls don’t suffer any anguish; they do, but it’ll be worth it if enough leave upon seeing the nonsense that is their community. We need a support network in place to help these young women exit their cult and enter society.

  48. Allison 'Goldman' Marcus says:

    I think you looked stunning at the wedding yesterday, honestly. I loved your outfit.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mrs. Halberstam,
    I am also a Jewish mother. But I no longer share your joyful anticipation of walking my child down to the chuppa. She died last year, of anorexia. It all began six years ago, when, at the age of 21, a shadchan who professed to be as well-meaning as you do suggested that she lose a few pounds (she was a size 6 at the time) in order to make herself more "marketable" (that is the term she used then). What followed was a nightmare for her, me, and our whole family that I can only hope you will never know from. If you have a modicum of rachmunus in your Jewish neshama, I beg you to retract this article and apologize for your deeply, dangerously misguided advice. I am crying now as I write this and think of what my daughter a"h had to suffer because of exactly the type of things that you have written here, and I am just so afraid for all the other impressionable young girls who will read your words and reach the same end. This is not a joke, and it is not funny at all. You could literally be killing people by making these suggestions and perpetuating the ethos that underlies them. I know that you would do anything to save your precious son if his life were ever, G-d forbid, in danger. Please recognize that you have directly endangered the lives of countless young women and girls by publishing this article and tell them, instead, that Hashem only wants them to be happy and healthy and a loving husband would expect no more and no less. You have caused me and many others so much pain with your words. I'm sure that was not your intention, but now that people have pointed it out, please, for the sake of K'lal Yisrael, who are languishing in galus because of just such insensitivity bein adam l'chavero, do teshuva for this unintentional sin. In the merit of your teshuva, may all the innocent women and girls who are still suffering as my only daughter did– as a result of the very approach that you advocate here– be healed and made whole.
    Sincerely,
    A grieving em b'yisrael.

  50. The Real Problem is this victim mentality that the "shidduch crisis" is creating. The blame game will not help anyone get married. No one can deny the miracle involved in bringing shidduchim together and the simple reality is that if people want to get married, they need to DO WHAT IT TAKES!

  51. What it takes means… EVERYTHING WITHIN REASON TO FIND YOUR SOULMATE. When people actually decide that they will do everything in their power, than atleast they can say, "Hey, I Tried…" as long as there are things you can still do, than I think you need to dig deeper and figure out whats really holding you back. Its not the mothers, and its not the boys, its YOU!
    This author is right, although her standards are wrong. I wont advocate for surgery, but if that is what it takes to feel confident enough in yourself and to convince yourself you did everything in your power, atleast it shows you are actually committed to finding your match. How can you blame the crisis and others if there is still more you can do…
    Girls not wearing makeup, I bet most of them aren't REALLY looking to get married, they just feel that is what is expected of them… If they really wanted to get married, they wouldnt dream of showing up without makeup!!!

  52. Just to clarify, I am not saying there is something intrinsic in you that is preventing a shidduch from happening, The way G-D made you is not in your control, and isnt really relevant… I mean, YOU as in DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN!!!! When you having a "burning desire" for something, you find a way to make it happen… it is a scientific fact!!! Its just how the mind works…

  53. Elana Levy says:

    seriously…looking presentable doesn't and shouldn't equal plastic surgery. I'm just pointing this out, now…

  54. Ilona Grudnikoff says:

    Fact: The reality is is that many people's expectations have drifted into the realm of super-beautiful super-models.

    And yet, there is no reason why we should submit ourselves to these standards and cut ourselves apart in order to fit the mold. By allowing this defect of society to dictate our decisions, we are facilitating it to penetrate our lives.There is no excuse for adapting to stupidity.

    A blunt reminder: Eventually, no matter how much you spend, your beauty will fade. And what will you be left with? A nose job, fake breasts, an over sized plastic surgery bill and a husband who is obsessed with appearances. (Not to mention the OCD Mother-in-law.)

    The price of a cut and tuck is much greater than a few thousand dollars. Ladies, just realize the consequences following the 'plastic surgery' suggestion; If you are so intent on believing that your appearance will land you a husband because it helps define who you are— when you cut off a layer of skin or shave down a bump, you are inadvertently sacrificing a part of yourselves. That's a hefty price to pay for a man who would settle for any super model.

    Perhaps, the more healthy approach would be to learn to value yourself, even if there is no man who does. I mean, think logically; who is more important, YOU or, a man who wants nothing more than to marry a Jewish Angelina Jolie?

  55. L'via Weisinger says:

    Allison – i've been praying since i read it this afternoon that such is the case. but not only to the shallow men – more importantly to the shallow moms who really exist and engage in this behavior (but may not admit it so blatantly) and have been raising the boys who go along with it.

  56. Raffi Holzer says:

    Stop giving the author such a hard time. I think we can all agree the system stinks. It's unfair and it objectifies women. The author agrees! But she's also being practical. And while she may be going overboard in making certain recommendations, she's certainly right in stating the the obvious, albeit politically incorrect, fact: looks matter. While we might like to think of ourselves or our friends as the exception to the rule (and perhaps you Chayim Goldberg are), guys generally care about looks, even if only on a subconscious level. The author is not pushing for the further objectification of women, but rather recognizing the reality that they are. That isn't a morally courageous stance, but given the heat she's received in these comments, it certainly took some kind of courage.

  57. L'via Weisinger says:

    thank you so much for sharing this. my first reaction to her article was just that – she and her ilk are contributing to the alarming rise of anorexia among young Jewish girls, as young as 12 and even younger. I am so so sorry for your loss and urge you to share your story with klal yisrael and every shadchan and every eligible boy on the planet. I am sure you will save many lives and elevate your daughter's neshoma with every neshoma you save.

  58. Anonymous says:

    Did you read the part about the nose jobs, botox, and bariatric surgery? I think you must have missed that…

  59. Adriane Tick Meyers says:

    Yes, agree with Andrea that assimilation is the answer. We really do need to widen our gene pool!

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I know I’m going to be crucified, but if the appeal I make below helps even one girl in shidduchim, then it will be worth all the fury and outrage that shall inevitably descend upon my soon-to-be beleaguered head.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/purim-and-the-tyranny-of-beauty-a-plea-to-mothers-of-girls-in-shidduchim/2012/03/19/

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