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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Bais Yaakov’

Killer of Baltimore Jewish Girl Rejected in Bid for New Trial

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

The convicted murderer of an 11-year-old Jewish girl in 1969 will not receive a new trial, a Baltimore judge ruled.

Circuit Judge Edward Hargadon, in his ruling on the appeal by Wayne Stephen Young, said jurors who found Young guilty of killing Esther Lebowitz in 1972 were adequately advised of how to try the case, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Attorneys for Young, 68, had requested the new trial based on a 2012 ruling by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the state’s highest court, which found that many convictions before 1980 are invalid because jurors were given unconstitutional instructions. An attorney for Young said she would appeal the ruling.

Young was sentenced to life in prison for the murder and has been denied parole 12 times. He claimed during his trial that he was temporarily insane.

Esther, a fifth-grader at the Bais Yaakov School for Girls, was missing for two days before her body was found about a half-mile from her Baltimore home. She died from 17 blows to the head.

Her family has since moved to Israel and did not attend a hearing on the case last month. About 200 Baltimore Jews protested the hearing.

Bais Yaakov Dropout: So Where Were My Parents?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Editor’s Note: This article is a follow up to Batsheva’s previous article “How Bais Yaakov Almost Ruined My Life”, where Batsheva wrote how Bais Yaakov education almost turned her off to Judaism. 

I want to say, before anything else, that I never expected this type of response from my blog post. I’m overwhelmed and amazed by how many people have had the same or very similar experiences to mine, and hearing their stories is more inspiring then anything else.

Had I known that 9,000 people would be reading what I had to say, there are a few things I would have added. For one, I’d like to answer the question that I’ve seen on every comment thread: Where were the parents?

My parents are incredible, open minded people. They have always supported me in every decision I have made and I have never blamed them for sending me to Bais Yaakov. In my community, it was the best option at the time and I can’t say I would’ve made a different decision had I been in their shoes. They made me follow the school rules, because as many of you pointed out – when you are part of an institution, you must follow the rules of that institution.

When I was younger, I didn’t tell them how I was feeling, because I felt that I was wrong. I didn’t tell them when I got in trouble in school, because I didn’t want to get in trouble at home too. However, as I got older it was pretty clear that Bais Yaakov was not for me. As soon as I was old enough, they sent me to a much more open minded boarding school in another state where they felt I could find my own place in Judaism.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who felt unaccepted religiously. Most of them, at one point or another, threw religion away. I never did that. I have never intentionally broken Shabbat, never eaten at a restaurant that wasn’t Kosher. I credit that completely and totally to my parents. My parents are YES people. Shabbat was not the day where I couldn’t go on my computer or go rollerblading – it was the day that I got to spend time with my family and friends. The dining room table was always covered in board games, popcorn, and chocolate chip cookies. Chagim were the same way. My father loves to learn. Dinnertime was centered around what time minyan was that day. Religion was a very positive thing in my home. As a kid, I didn’t connect THAT Judaism with what I was learning. It was just our lifestyle.

When I said I wish someone had been there to tell me all the things I know about Judaism now, I was wrong. There were people who would have told me, had I been brave enough to ask. I have had many amazing influences in my life – my siblings, friends, families in my community. Now, looking back, I can see the effect that they had on me. But when I was fourteen and feeling like I didn’t fit in, I didn’t think anyone would understand.

One other thing I’d like to clear up is that I didn’t write the post to place blame. To quote Rascal Flatts, “God bless the broken road”, and I wouldn’t go back and change anything. All of my experiences have led me to the place I am now, and I’m very happy here. As I said, the Bais Yaakov system works for some. My friends graduated from there and most of them have no idea why I wrote what I did. My intention was never to hurt or offend – I just had something I felt that I needed to say. Based on the amount of positive responses I received, I think I made the right decision by posting it.

Visit Batsheva’s blog, They Call me Shev

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Readers Sound Off…

A male reader has some advice for the divorced woman caught in a prolonged relationship with a married man (as related by A frustrated friend in Chronicles of 2-10-12).

Dear Rachel,

Mine is a male perspective on the cheating husband who is dating that good-looking woman. I too (and I am not proud of it) cheated on my wife with a co-worker. And let me tell you from the get-go that if this man were serious about this woman, she wouldn’t still be waiting for his move some three years later.

Rachel, your answer was 100% right on target! I fell in love with my co-worker, and it took six months for me to give my wife both a legal divorce and a “get.” Today I am a happily married man!

My wife cried at first. She was shocked and didn’t want to accept it, but it is a man’s world out there, and we do have the power to get on with our lives if need be.

Men are cold and callous. I lost contact with my children, but I started fresh. It’s now been seven years and I have a new family. This woman who the letter talks about is in her own world. She can’t see past his lies. Does he spend holidays with her? Does he spend his Saturdays with her? Does he go out with her in public, to restaurants, weddings or friends’ houses?

Does he introduce her to his friends? Has she ever even visited his supposed humble abode? If he makes all kinds of excuses or says he can’t because he is a married man, then I think it’s high time for her to wake up. He is just playing her and she is fulfilling his needs (whether physical or emotional).

Lady, he is a married man, like it or not! Do not settle for some crumbs that he throws your way. If he would really be serious about you he would indicate it by your having a MRS. next to his name.

Three years is long enough! Don’t be his fool any longer! When will the truth finally dawn on you, when you’ll be 30 years down the road instead of 3?

Been there and done the right thing

* * * * *

A university professor takes a stand on the topic of a girl’s (and boy’s) high school education (see Chronicles of 12-23-2011; 1-13-12; 2-17-12; 3-2-12).

Dear Rachel,

I have read several of the letters commenting on Bais Yaakov’s high school education and would like to address the issue of simple cooking and sewing.

In my opinion, every young person – both boys and girls – should be taught the basics of cooking and sewing. These are life skills and one never knows when one may have to rely on them.

I know of a young woman who unfortunately passed away a few years ago leaving two young daughters. Her husband had absolutely no experience cooking and hence had no idea how to prepare meals for his daughters. Neighbors and relatives helped out for a while, but in the long run this was not feasible. I am sure he regretted that he had no experience in the kitchen.

When it comes to sewing, we all know that buttons fall off and that seams rip. Should not every young person, male and female, be taught to make these simple repairs?

According to at least one of the letters published, cooking and sewing are not always taught in the home. If so, it is most important that they be taught in school, in both Bais Yaakov and yeshiva. Young people need to be equipped with these basic survival skills.

Professor Yitzchok Levine

* * * * *

How to combat the danger that lurks in our midst: A reader takes a hard line approach to dealing with child molesters and predators.

Dear Rachel,

We just celebrated Purim, Pesach is almost upon us, and Shavuos will be here before we know it — all holidays observed joyfully with family togetherness.

For some of us, however, these special days are shrouded by a dark cloud that hangs over us, one of family dysfunction, hostility, and most of all anger and hurt.

While to the world we appear to be the model Jewish Family, we are not. As others celebrated Purim with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, aunts, uncles and cousins, for us it was a day of shame, loneliness and detachment.

You see my family is dealing with an issue that most of you only read about in books, newspapers, and on the Internet. The issue is molestation and endangerment of children.

We, as a community, need to grow up and deal with this all-encompassing crucial matter, because innocent young boys and girls do not invent graphic sexual accounts about close family relatives.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Re: “A Bais Yaakov Education” – as defined by I’m not a sexist; I’m a realist (Chronicles, December 23 2011)

Dear Rachel,

The woman who wrote about her grueling high-school agenda evoked memories of when I would be up nights memorizing stuff (that I’ve long since forgotten), only to find out later that other girls in my class, who knew far less than I, managed to achieve higher grades.

How? By breaking into the office and making copies of all the Hebrew finals. (I kid you not!) All they then had to do was study the answers to the questions they knew would be asked – and they were home free. They told me only afterwards since they feared that after all the studying I’d done I might be tempted to turn them in. They were wrong on that one, however, I was plenty peeved at having been left to do all the hard work when I could have just breezed through the exams as they did.

I picked up other ways of cheating the system along the way, but I’ll refrain from revealing more in order not to spoil it for current students, who surely have some of the same tricks up their sleeves. Seriously, administrators and principals of these schools are fooling themselves. These classes are a waste of a girl’s time. Why not utilize our precious growing years by teaching us things that would be far more useful to us down the line? How about communication and organizational skills to start with?

By no means am I trying to minimize the importance of learning Torah. I just take issue with the method and the extreme. Talk to us in our language. Make us live and breathe the stories that comprise the weekly parsha instead of confusing us with complicated inyanim and making us sweat before finals. Entice us with the beauty of our history so that we thirst for more – rather than dread being quizzed.

I concur; could have done without… Dear Rachel,

Looking back, I have to say that I am not unhappy about the heavy-duty studying we were made to do in high school. To begin with, I feel it was a powerful mind-trainer.

Furthermore, in my married life there’ve been times when I’d have found myself lost had it not been for the considerable learning I did back then. For instance, many of my friends and I feel that men are not as well versed in halachos as they should be, especially in those that deal with the home and kitchen. Besides, they are not always available during the day when questions may arise.

All in all, it’s made me a more confident individual and homemaker. If you ask me, I could have done without biology, chemistry and geometry class.

A satisfied BY Grad Dear Rachel,

The letter written by a Bais Yaakov graduate reminded me of the time I used to work the night shift at a local Boro Park bakery that was in the vicinity of a popular BY high school. In their frustration, girls cramming for exams would come by desperate for help in deciphering some of the “deep meforshim” that were obviously over their heads.

My being chassidish may have had some bearing on their confidence in my ability to assist them. Frankly, I found it unbelievable that girls were being made to learn things that would be totally useless to them in their future lives. What a waste of time! I can only guess that the main reason this happens is to provide teachers with an income.

Still shaking my head Dear Rachel,

Regarding the letter in your column of Dec. 23, I would like to ask the writer if she has parents. I think she should be very grateful for the excellent education she received, while the items she feels were missing are things that I would expect her to have learned from her mother and/or her grandmother.

No school can teach a girl how to cook, bake and care for children and a home better than her own mother. Creating a Jewish home is learned at home. These are some of the things that mothers pass on to their daughters, whereas the things that were taught in school give them a fine foundation to be true mothers in Israel.

A proud husband of a BY graduate Dear Rachel,

As a grandmother who went to high school in Europe and missed out on the privilege of obtaining a Bais Yaakov education/chinuch, I must disagree with the young mother who considers it as having been a waste of her time.

With the type of secular stimulus out there today, it’s a good thing our girls are being intellectually nourished in such a wonderful way. If they weren’t, they’d be more likely to seek out mental stimulation from unorthodox sources.

Anguish That Does Not Go Away: The Singles Problem (Part One)

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, one of many you surely receive each week about shidduchim. I hope to act as a representative of all the sad and lonely unmarried men and women in our society. I am hoping that if you share my message in whole or in part with our community, it will have an effect – even if it’s minute.

I am a typical 30-something female who attended typical Bais Yaakov-type schools, comes from a regular down-to-earth frum family, and has an ordinary job. I also have a master’s degree. Unfortunately, what I am missing is that I have not yet been blessed with finding my bashert.

Every day is very difficult for singles, but perhaps the most painful are the Yom Tovim – the holidays – especially Yom Kippur. We hope, we daven and we dream that Hashem will answer our prayers and bring us only good things for the coming year.

In order to make our dreams a reality, we unfortunately have to rely on those around us to make it happen – those who are close to us and those who are not. We network with anyone possible. I have e-mailed my personal information to so many people – an uncomfortable feeling in and of itself. More often than not, my calls are not returned and the e-mails are not answered. Occasionally someone will drop the name of an eligible guy, but then never do anything about it. Would it be so terrible to expect the person to take an additional step and make that call? The waiting is torture.

I feel that we, as a community, do not do nearly as much for shidduchim as we should. We all lead busy lives with many obligations, but how often do people put themselves out for others when it comes to shidduchim? And worse, how often do people commit to things and make promises and then proceed to forget about them? I have people who are close to me who’ve offered to help out with minor things like a follow up e-mail or phone call, and even with major projects like starting a shidduch group as a zechus for me, but it never happens.

We are about to celebrate Chanukah; life goes on and people are back to business as usual. I wonder how people can be so apathetic and never even give singles a thought. I often wonder why people commit to helping if they have no intention of doing so. Why do they give hope– only to dash it? We go to family simchas and are always labeled “the single relative.” We get through the Yom Tovim as “the single aunt.”

And there is an additional problem: insensitivity and hurtful remarks. This past Yom Kippur, during the rabbi’s speech right before Neilah, someone came over to me to ask that I send my shidduch information. She had thought of someone appropriate for me. Wow, I thought, G-d is acting fast.

But we are heading into winter now and I have yet to hear from that person. Couldn’t she have called or at least e-mailed me? She picked me up only to drop me like a hot potato. Additionally, she took my time away during the last moments of Yom Kippur when I could have been saying Tehillim. To what end?

Of course, you can always count on people to offer sage advice, saying things like “It’s time you got married.” And there will always be those in shul and at other events who will whisper to others, “She is such a rachmones. She must be in her thirties and still single.” Very often I stay at home on the holidays. It is just too painful to go to shul, though staying home is not a happy solution either.

On one such occasion, a neighbor’s married daughter knocked on my door to ask if I would watch her child at home while she went to shul with another of her children. I am not a teenaged babysitter. Is she that clueless? Did it ever occur to her that I would do anything to take my own child to shul? There have been many similar situations.

Are we not supposed to be rachmonim ub’nei rachmonim? Compassionate ones and the children of compassionate ones, sensitive to the suffering of others and careful of how we speak to them? Is it too much to ask for people to take a moment to make a phone call or send an e-mail?

Permit me to make some suggestions to your readers.

* It is admirable and noble to want to help with shidduchim, but be serious! Don’t drop names because you feel it shows you are doing something. Unless you have a concrete plan or serious information, don’t talk about it. If you do mention someone, follow up and get back to the single person. Don’t leave anyone hanging. Your life might not be dependent on it, but ours is!

Attending Bais Yaakov: The Answer To My Wish

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I was about 11 years old and crying on the front steps of the Bluzhever Rebbe’s house. It was the late 40s, and the Rebbe had recently arrived. He miraculously survived the Nazi inferno, but lost his wife and children.

On the first Friday night after his arrival, he led a tish in our house – and when he established his shul we davened there. My grandfather was a Bluzhever chassid in Poland, and came to take my father, z”l, to the Rebbe and to his father.

That’s how I came to sit and cry on his front steps on Taylor Street in Williamsburg. The rebbetzin saw me and asked, “Vos iz mein kind – what is your problem?” Being shy and full of awe, I finally blurted out my request. (The rebbetzin always told this story to the ladies whenever I came to the shul years later. She said I was instrumental in the first din Torah the Rebbe presided over in America.)

We were refugees from Germany. Public school, where we participated in the songs and celebrations of the American holidays, was free for us. For limudei kodesh, the shomer Shabbos girls went to afternoon classes in Rabbi Newhouse’s Bais Yaakov building on Division Avenue in Williamsburg.

On Shabbos I went to Bnos Agudas Yisroel. Our leader encouraged us to go to the all-day Bais Yaakov parochial school. I told my leader that my father didn’t see the need for it since after public school finished for the day, I was attending Bais Yaakov in the afternoon. She told me to come to her house to speak to her brother, an active member of Zeirei Agudas Yisroel. Upon hearing that my family and I were Bluzhever chassidim who davened in his shul, he told me to express my wishes to the Rebbe.

That’s how I came to the Rebbe’s front steps on Taylor Street. The rebbetzin called me in and told the Rebbe that his chassid’s daughter had the major request of wanting to attend Bais Yaakov all day.

And so it came to pass. The Rebbe must have spoken to my father, who hired a private tutor for me over the summer. This enabled me to be ready for the seventh grade.

I thank Hashem for all of this, and I’m truly grateful to Rabbi Newhouse, z”l, for accepting me into Bais Yaakov. I cherish all those years in Bais Yaakov’s elementary school, high school and seminary. The zechus for me to have had Rebbetzins Kaplan, Bender, Wachtfogel and others as my teachers is tremendous. The hashgachah was evident in all ways.

A Living Megillah (Part Two)

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I write this column during the week of Parshas Vayechi, in which our father Yaakov imparts his blessing to his descendants. The Torah teaches that as he was about to give the brachah to Ephraim and Menasheh, the sons of Yosef, he suddenly posed a very strange and troubling question. “Mi eileh? – Who are these?”

We know that to the very last moment of his life, the Patriarch’s mind was sharp. Moreover, Ephraim and Menasheh were his daily Torah study disciples, so what could his questions possibly have meant?

Through his Ruach HaKodesh, Yaakov Avinu had a frightening vision. He saw that in future generations, there would be those who would depart from the derech – the path of Torah, and it was that which terrified him and prompted his question. When however, Yosef assured him that they were his legitimate descendants, his immediate response was “Kachem na eilai – Bring them to me and I will bless them.”

Not only did Yaakov Avinu bless the boys, but the Torah testifies that he kissed and hugged them as well, which leaves us even more perplexed. Could a blessing, a kiss, and a hug be a panacea for abandonment, rebelliousness or assimilation?

The answer to that question of Yaakov Avinu is a resounding “Yes!” If that lost soul is a Yiddishe neshamah, it can never be totally lost, for embedded in every neshamah is the pintele Yid from Sinai, and a brachah, a kiss, a hug from a loving zeidy or bubbie can revive that neshamah in an instant.

Yaakov Avinu’s blessing, his kiss, his hug was so powerful, so all- encompassing, that it has spanned the millennia, transcended the centuries, and kept our people alive and anchored, even in the raging stormy seas of persecution and assimilation.

At the conclusion of last week’s column, I promised to share with you stories that testify that the pintele Yid is as potent and as magical today as it was yesterday. That pintele Yid is so mighty, so all-powerful, that no force on earth can ever extinguish it. Baruch Hashem, I have a thousand-and-one stories that demonstrate this inviolable truth, but for now, I will limit myself to sharing with you just one story that occurred most recently.

About a month ago, I received e-mail from New Caledonia. It was a place I had never heard of before, and I had to do a search on Google until I discovered that it is a small island between New Zealand and Australia. The official language there is French, and their Jewish population (according to Wikipedia) is comprised of just 50 people. Once in a while, a rabbi comes to visit, but other than that, there is no Torah guidance or leadership.

The e-mail that I received was from a young girl of 16 who wrote that she had received a copy of my book, Life Is A Test in French. The book entered her soul and changed her life. She wrote that she would soon have a few weeks of holiday from school and wondered if she could come to New York and study Torah with me.

I immediately responded and assured her that I would be delighted to have her join our Torah classes, but frankly, I never anticipated that she would actually take me up on my invitation. For a 16-year-old girl to make such a journey all by herself and to commit to such a life-transforming decision just on the basis of reading a book… and more – to have her parents approve of such an undertaking, was not a very likely eventuality. So you can imagine my total surprise when, a few weeks later, she appeared.

It was a typical Tuesday night at Hineni. As usual, I was holding my Torah class at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on East 85 Street and Lexington Avenue. At the conclusion of my class, those who wish to talk with me privately queue up. We have had some amazing happenings on these queues.

One evening, a lovely young woman was waiting, and just behind her stood a tall, handsome young man. When I looked up and saw them, something told me that they would make a great couple, so when the girl approached me with some personal questions, I immediately told her that the fellow standing behind her would make a very good shidduch. And a few minutes later, I said the same to him. The rest is history. Today, they have a true Torah home and are the proud parents of the most adorable children.

I relate this story, because I have seen the most wonderful, unexpected events unfold at Hineni. But that which took place on that Tuesday night just one month ago is truly spectacular.

A beautiful, sweet girl approached me. She introduced herself in an adorable French accent and reminded me that she had e-mailed me from New Caledonia…. and now, she had arrived.

“Does the Rebbetzin remember the e-mail that I sent?” she asked respectfully.

“Of course I do,” I said, not quite believing that she had actually come. I gathered her in my arms and welcomed her with joy.

On Tuesday nights, Chayele, a dear devoted friend, always waits until I am ready to leave so that she can help me and walk me to the car. As usual, that night, Chayele was waiting patiently for me to finish. Sensing that she might just be the perfect “American mommy” for our visitor from New Caledonia, I asked Chayele to join us.

It was love at first sight between Chayele and Shulamith- Shirel. They connected in the most amazing way. Incredibly, they even resembled one another in appearance. But it was not only Chayele who felt so special about Shulamith. Everyone who met her was blown away. Her sweet gentleness, her keen bright mind, her commitment to Torah and mitzvos were inspirational. Quickly, she became part of our Hineni family and her presence at our classes was a delight.

How did her journey commence? How did she overcome her secular environment?

As I mentioned earlier, Shulamith was given Life Is A Test in French translation as a gift. She read the book…. it penetrated the innermost chambers of her heart and ignited the pintele Yid in her neshamah and she shared her newly found treasure with her devoted, kind parents.

Even as Shulamith, her family also embraced the book. Her father, a highly respected physician, taught himself and the family to read Hebrew, and her amazing mother, Elisheva, after reading my chapter on 9/11 and the significance of the number “11″ in Judaism, wrote a book with 11 chapters testifying to the Jewish soul’s yearning to do teshuvah and reconnect with Hashem. Shulamith, who has great artistic talent, illustrated the manuscript.

Shulamith is an excellent swimmer and is on her school’s swim team. However, when she discovered the Torah laws of tznius – modesty, she swam fully clothed. Her determination to keep the mitzvot was so powerful that it rendered her impervious to the jibes and mockery of her fellow students.

There are myriad more situations that I can share with you that demonstrate how this beautiful Jewish flower bloomed in the spiritual desert of New Caledonia. But that will have to remain, B’Ezrat Hashem, for my next book.

The days passed quickly, and we realized that very soon, Shulamith would have to return – but how could she go back to her old school? How could she survive without Torah? Shulamith was determined to study in a yeshiva, but where?

And then I remembered the wonderful Torah institution, Bais Yaakov of Montreal that has a special program for girls from foreign countries.

Some years ago, my daughter Chaya Sora joined me when I led a group of Israeli college students on a tour to Auschwitz. On Shabbos, while davening in the Warsaw Shul, she spotted a beautiful young girl davening with great concentration. That story, in and of itself, is a spectacular saga, but for now, suffice it to say that Chaya Sora arranged for her to study at the Bais Yaakov of Montreal and today, Baruch Hashem, she is married and I had the great zechus to have made her shidduch.

So it was only natural that once again, I thought of the Bais Yaakov of Montreal for Shulamith. Mrs. Berger, the dedicated director of “Achoseinu” (the program for girls from foreign countries) was coming to the States and Chaya Sora arranged for Shulamith to meet her at the Agudah convention. Once again, the rest is history, and today, our precious Shulamith is a happy student in that outstanding Torah institution.

But the story doesn’t quite end there. Shulamith’s mother, the real aishes chayil of the story, came to visit. It mattered little to her that she came from sunny New Caledonia to the icy cold of Montreal. For this Jewish mother, there was only one source of warmth, and that was the fire of Torah, which she found for her daughter in the halls of Bais Yaakov. Not only is Elisheva committed to the Torah education of Shulamith, but she is determined to offer the same opportunity to her son as well, and she is now actively searching for a fine yeshiva for him.

Why do I share this story with you? Because indeed, this is the “Living Megillah” that my revered father, HaRav HaGaon HaTzadik, Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l, was referring to – the homecoming of a nation. Thousands of years of exile, isolation, assimilation, could not extinguish the pintele Yid in our Yiddishe neshamos.

We are witness to Hashem’s promise unfolding before our very eyes: “Even if your remnants be at the other end of the heavens, I shall gather them and bring them home.” Baruch Hashem, we are returning home to the loving embrace of our father, Yaakov.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-living-megillah-part-two-2/2010/01/06/

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