For the past several weeks this column has featured letters from parents who have experienced rejection and hatred from their children – as well as my suggestions on how to cope with such situations.
This week I would like to share a letter that adds another dimension to the breakdown of so many families in our community. In this instance it’s not the children who have rejected the parents but a parent who has rejected her child.
It is with much sorrow that I publicize these letters, though I feel it is important to do so. It is simply unbelievable that our family life, which was always held sacrosanct and had been a model for all nations, has fallen in so many cases to such a low.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,
We live in Los Angeles. My parents moved here when I was born. Your name was very much a household word in our home. My grandmother of blessed memory was your greatest fan. She always spoke about you with much admiration and respect. She even had the record you made of your Madison Square Garden gathering when you sounded the call to our timeless Torah. She played that record often and I can still hear your electrifying words – “You are a Jew” and “Shema Yisrael” – which ring in my mind and heart to this day.
Since my Bubbie is no longer here to give me advice, I’m turning to you, the Rebbetzin she trusted so much.
My family was no different from others. I have one sister and two brothers. My mom and dad had their issues, disagreements, which at times were very tense. They quarreled – sometimes so loudly that even if we children tried to find sanctuary in our rooms, we still could hear it. However, even with all that discord they never divorced. There were times when there was a cold war between them; nothing was said but the tension was palpable and we were all victimized by it. Even so, they always maintained a home for us, and for all intents and purposes we were a family.
My father had a real estate business and did fairly well. I wasn’t much interested in it since I wanted to go into medicine. Then my father suddenly became ill and I had to help him out. I learned the business easily and came to like it. I especially enjoyed working with my father and we always had a good relationship. He never questioned my integrity and things went well. My younger brothers made their careers in the world of finance and my sister got married and moved to Arizona, where her husband joined his family’s business.
As my father’s illness progressed, I had to take on more and more responsibilities. In my personal life many changes occurred as well. I met a beautiful girl who became my life partner. G-d blessed us with three great kids. Life seemed good, with the exception of my father’s deteriorating health.
The doctor told us my father would need open heart surgery but he assured us that nowadays these procedures were not life threatening. Sadly, the operation was not a success. My beloved father passed away and there was a terrible void my life. True, he had been sick for a long time, but his presence had always been there and that presence was very powerful and strengthened me. My father was not only a parent, he was my mentor and best friend. He was the person who guided me and taught that which I could never have learned at any university. My father was a mighty role model to follow and I will always thank G-d for the privilege of having been his son.
Three years after his passing my nightmare commenced when I received a letter from an attorney whom my mother had engaged. I was shocked. She claimed I had tampered with assets that rightly belonged to her and accused me of theft.
I kept rereading the letter but could not believe it. I could not sleep. I could not eat. Again and again the question kept repeating itself in my mind – how could a mother do this to her son? If she had any grievances, why couldn’t we just talk? Despite everything I swallowed my feelings and called her – but she wouldn’t take my call.Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis