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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rebbetzin Jungreis’

The Sword In The Tongue

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Letter #1

Dear Rebbetzin:

I am not sure whether this is the right forum in which to discuss my concern, but I am hopeful that your widely read column can be used as an arena to air this issue.

We are taught from a very young age about the prohibition against engaging in scandalous language against our friends/neighbors/acquaintances. There is a plethora of literature out there on the topic as well as shiurim, audiocassettes and clubs whose members commit themselves to being extremely mindful of what they speak and what they listen to.

We are aware of and repeatedly taught about the dire consequences of speaking lashon hara.This transgression is severe and multifaceted. Thankfully, guarding our tongues and ears against malignant speech is a subject that has, baruch Hashem, made its way to the forefront of Jewish life.

There is another abuse of speech I have noticed lately which I feel is a rather neglected or even non-existent topic of discussion: impertinence. I find that everywhere I turn lately I encounter this form of vulgarity in language; it seems to be commonplace, almost accepted.

Two weeks ago I was at a shul function. Also attending was a woman whose family had been going through a trying and painful period due to the broken engagement of her child – which came as a surprise to the community, not only because of the seeming compatibility of the couple but also the suddenness of the breakup. In such a case, one would think a kind word of comfort would suffice. I was shocked to witness the level of brash and shameless questioning this poor mother had to endure: “What happened?” “Who made the decision?” “What other factors were in play?” “Is he/she back on the market?” “What was the monetary impact?”

The woman tried to be polite and answer generally, but her growing discomfort was obvious and the interrogations were unrelenting.

Recently, I wanted to schedule an outing with a friend during which we would both run errands while taking the opportunity to catch up. At first I was rather offended at her seeming hesitation and reserve, but later she confessed to me that she no longer shops and runs errands on the route we often took together. The reason? Her youngest child suffers developmental setbacks that have unfortunately become more and more apparent and she can no longer stand the impertinent and pressing inquiries into her personal matters, especially by people who are barely connected to her.

I was really able to empathize with her sentiments. The financial climate has affected my family to the point where we were unable to send our children to camp this summer. Not too long ago my eight-year-old daughter told me she didn’t like her carpooling arrangement and wanted it changed. It turned out the woman with whom I share carpool duties asks too many questions and makes her uncomfortable:

“Is your father working at the same job?” “Has your mother started to work since she got her degree?” “What camp did you go to this summer?” “What?” “You didn’t go?

“How come?” “What did you do all day?”

This insensitivity impacts on all generations. I was helping my mom find a place to rent temporarily while she was about to embark on a home renovation. This is the type of “chore” my father doesn’t like to involve himself with, which I don’t think is that out of the ordinary, but the frum woman showing the apartment apparently found it strange enough to ask my mother, “Do you have a husband?” and other personal questions.

My mother and I were both flabbergasted. What difference does it make to her either way? Why is it her business? When is enough enough? When did intrusiveness become acceptable? I hope people realize that damage can be inflicted without saying something directly nasty. Why do we feel entitled to know our neighbors’ entire goings-on?

Sincerely,

Fed Up

Letter #2

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

Recently, I went through a harrowing experience. The pain and the shock are things I cannot describe, but as difficult as my experience was, the insensitivity of others made it much worse. The saying “rubbing salt on an open wound” really hit home.

I am 21 years old and was expecting my first baby. For my parents, this would have been the first grandchild and for my in-laws the first male grandchild (all their grandchildren are girls). Grandchildren are always awaited with great anticipation by bubbies and zeides, but I am certain you will understand their joy was even more intensified. As for my husband and me, we were flying. Once we found out we’d be having a boy, we made plans – we even had the bris all planned out. I went with my mother for baby furniture; as is traditional, we were careful not to finalize a purchase but just designated our choice.

I went into labor two days before my due date. I had a very hard time. From the outset, there were complications and my beautiful little baby was stillborn. As I wrote above, I am unable to describe my pain, my suffering, and my depression. But as terrible as it was, it was made ten times worse by people’s insensitive remarks:

“Did you have to sit shiva?” “Did you give him a name?” “Did you have a regular leviah [funeral]?” “What exactly happened?” “At what point in the labor did you find out that something was wrong?” “Was it the doctor’s fault?” “Are you suing?”

Instead of saying something kind like, “I’m certain that Hashem will give you the bracha of many more babies — a beautiful large family,” they ask about gory details, which only makes everything so much worse.

Rebbetzin, every question was another knife in my heart. When I discussed this with my husband, he challenged me with: “Why don’t you do something about it?”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Well, for one thing,” he answered, “you can write to Rebbetzin Jungreis. Her column is highly respected and has a large readership ranging from the secular to the religious, from the young to the old.”

I saw the wisdom of his suggestion. The thought that perhaps some people will learn to be more careful with what they say, and how they say it, gives me a measure of comfort.

A Brokenhearted Almost-mother

‘The Greatest Event In History Is About To Occur’ – A Conversation With Roy Neuberger

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Growing up in a wealthy, but very secular, Jewish home on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, Roy S. Neuberger never imagined he would one day be a sought-after speaker in the Orthodox Jewish world.

His father, who turned 106 over the summer, was a prominent art collector and financier (receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Bush in 2007) and his mother was the chairman of the Board of Governors of the prestigious Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Roy did not have a formal bris or bar mitzvah.

In 1974, however, at age 31, Roy Neuberger met Hineni founder (and Jewish Press columnist) Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis and his life changed dramatically. Within a year, he became completely Orthodox and a decade and a half later he grew even closer to Rebbetzin Jungreis when his daughter married her son, Rabbi Osher Jungreis.

In 2000 Neuberger – whose op-ed articles regularly appear in The Jewish Press – authored From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul, and last year he published his first novel, 2020 Vision.

He recently spoke with The Jewish Press.

The Jewish Press: Can you briefly recount your journey to Orthodox Judaism?

Neuberger: I grew up in a very affluent home and went to exclusive private schools. But even as a very young child I felt this tremendous emptiness inside me. Something was wrong. Life wasn’t working and I had to find answers.

So as I grew up I started looking everywhere I could think of: literature, wilderness hiking, social action, the civil rights and antiwar movements – you name it. Then I got into, what shall I say, alien lifestyles like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. I even wrote a book at one point called Why the Jews Are Wrong and the Catholics and Protestants Are Right. It was totally crazy and extreme.

(In the meantime, I met my wife in high school and got married in college. It then became a mutual quest; we both were looking for a way of life that was real.)

Anyway, after many years, in the early 1970s, I was the publisher of a small newspaper in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, and my wife and I went to visit a friend, Walter Grunfeld, who was a newspaper publisher, to learn how to run a paper. At the end of the day, Walter wanted to watch the news. It was during the Yom Kippur War, and as we watched Walter started crying, “I can’t believe it. A week ago Israel was finished, and look at what’s happening today. General Sharon just crossed the Suez Canal, the Egyptians are surrounded. It’s unbelievable.”

And I’m standing there, like, “What? O yeh, I heard there’s some war in the Middle East.” I didn’t know a thing. I didn’t care. Walter Grunfeld started screaming at me: “What kind of a Jew are you? Don’t you have a heart?” Those were maybe the most shocking words I ever heard in my life. They’re still reverberating in my head. And I started thinking.

A few months later I was having a meeting with a good friend who was Jewish, and I asked him – I was 31 years old at the time and never yet inside a synagogue – “What do they do in synagogue?” So he called me that night and said, “A woman is coming to speak next Thursday night at the synagogue. Do you want to come?” I said, “Fine.” And that’s how we met Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. That’s how it all began.

Rebbetzin Jungreis was not supposed to come that night, correct?

Right. She was supposed to come three months earlier, but she got sick and couldn’t come. And the night she did come, people tried to dissuade her. “What are you going upstate for?” they asked. “All you’re going to find is a few cows out there.”

But she came and that was the same moment we showed up – the first time in my life I ever was willing to walk into a Jewish institution. Was that a coincidence? It’s too impossible to have been a coincidence.

 

 

Roy Neuberger speaks to students on a recent trip to Israel

 

The way you met your wife – whom you credit in your book for almost everything good that’s happened in your life – was also an amazing “coincidence.”

We met in this elite private school a long time ago. She was extremely popular, and all the guys wanted to go out with her. I wasn’t so socially adept, and she was like Miss Universe. I thought I was never going to speak to her. With all these crazy questions in my head, I thought there was something wrong with me.

But then at a track meet I found myself sitting next to her and, like Bilam’s donkey, my mouth opened and words – normal words – started coming out. I, who could never speak to girls, especially popular girls, especially beautiful girls, started speaking to none other than the most beautiful, popular girl in the world. And I was not making a fool of myself. It’s illogical and impossible but it happened, and if Hashem didn’t do it, how did it happen?

You say you had this feeling of “tremendous emptiness” and a sense that “something was wrong” ever since you were a child. Why do you think you had these feelings when so many non-observant Jews do not?

The Gemara in Maseches Nidah says that an angel teaches us the whole Torah when we’re in the womb, but when we’re born we forget everything. Nonetheless, it’s in there – that’s the pintele yid or neshamah we have inside of us.

The question is how successful we are in submerging that neshamah, burying it under layers of materialism. Some people make a lot of money and are quite successful in believing that’s all there is to life. But other people are not so successful in covering up their neshamah, and they hear that angel speaking to them wherever they go. It bothers them and they want to reconnect with that. And I think that’s what happened in my case.

In your most recent book, 2020 Vision, and in your op-ed articles in The Jewish Press, you write a lot about Moshiach. Why?

We’re living right now in very incredible times. At the beginning of 2020 Vision, there’s a quote from the Malbim on Sefer Yechezkel. He writes that at the end of days before Moshiach comes, the Muslim and Western nations will form a coalition against us to try to drive us out of Israel.

He writes that the situation will look impossible for us, but something unexpected will happen and those two huge nation blocs will start fighting and destroying each other. After that, Moshiach will come and the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt.

If you look around the world today and want to understand what’s happening, [you should keep the Malbim's prediction in mind]. Why is there a 9/11? Why are there monumental and growing conflicts involving Muslims and the Christian world? It’s all explained in Nevi’im and Chazal.

Why is it important for people to know this?

You look at the world and everything is in crisis – personal problems, family issues, the swine flu, tsunamis, hurricanes, economic stress, terrorism, etc. You can become hopeless. But these are all signs that our rabbis told us would be in place in the days before Moshiach comes.

And I think it’s super important, it’s survival, for people to realize this. The greatest event in the history of the world is about to happen. Just hang in there.

‘Killer’ Shidduchim

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

         Most of us have heard the Talmudic assertion that “He who saves a life, saves a world,” and conversely, “He who kills a life, kills a world.”

 

         Lately I have been wondering if “killing a world” can extend to someone who undermines a potential shidduch and delays or prevents the subsequent creation of children. Should a person who gives misleading information – either by withholding pertinent facts, or allowing a personal bias to negatively label a boy/girl being redd, be viewed as having “destroyed worlds?”

 

         Case in point: “Suri” liked to dabble in shidduchim and acted as a go-between to facilitate the gathering of information. One day she bumped into an acquaintance, Mrs. X. at a simchah. Mrs. X. had given Suri a parve recommendation about a boy who she was acquainted with. This boy had been suggested to Suri’s friend’s daughter. Suri commiserated with Mrs. X. as to how the couple met, dated and  married, but got divorced weeks later.

 

         “I’m not surprised,” Mrs. X stated. When a speechless Suri regained her composure, she exclaimed in shock, “You aren’t surprised? You mean you knew there was something wrong with this boy and you said nothing??” “Well,” Mrs. X. harrumphed, I didn’t want to fahshter a shidduch. Sometimes marriage can straighten people out and they change for the better.”

 

         In the meantime, this hapless girl in her early 20s is a divorcee, who is having a much harder time getting married, despite her numerous qualities and fine character. Her classmates and friends are building their families – but the building of hers has been severely compromised – and delayed – for who knows how long.  Is this not destroying a world?

 

         Recently there was a letter in Rebbetzin Jungreis’ column from a woman who, B’H, had married off over a dozen children, mostly girls. The letter-writer shared that when her youngest daughter inquired about a bachur, who had been suggested to her, she was told by a friend that her sister had gone out with him and felt, “he lacked middos.” What was the “bad” behavior that brought her to this conclusion? He did not walk her to the door.

 

         Despite this negative report, her daughter felt there must have been good things about this boy if her friend’s parents had agreed to the shidduch in the first place. She decided to give the young man the benefit of the doubt, saying perhaps he was too inexperienced to know better. She dated him and found him to be a wonderful, young man with great middos and is now very happily married to him.

 

         This young man was lucky. Because of an unwarranted slur on his character, his chances of getting a normal shidduch would have been out the window. The parents of the pool of girls he would be dating – those sharing his hashkafos and goals – would have heard through the “grapevine”- as did the letter-writer’s daughter – that “he lacked middos” and would have turned him down. He would have gotten one “No” after another, without ever knowing why.

 

         A thoughtless young girl, with no inkling of the importance of her words, casually give an ehrlich young man a negative label with the very real possibility of harming his chances for a shidduch, essentially delaying, at best, and preventing, at worst, the birth of his children. Killing worlds, so to speak. As I said, fortunately for him, another young lady decided to give him a chance.

 

         How unfair that a personal bias could have caused a young man to be mislabeled, ruining his name, his future, and possibly even his physical and emotional well-being.

 

         As do the biases of people, who unfortunately, have a very strong influence on those in the shidduch parshah.

 

         I personally know of rabbanim who have told girls not to date fine young men “because they are not frum enough.” On what are these rabbanim basing their assessment of these yeshiva graduates from heimeshe families, who eat mehadrin, glatt, chalav Yisroel, are Shomrei Shabbos, ba’alei chesed and tzedakah, who are kovea itim, learn with chavrusahs and have good middos?  On the fact that these boys, who these rabbanim never met,  went to college – or did not go to beis medrash “long enough.”

 

         Never mind that some of these fine young men felt that kibud av v’eim meant becoming earners so they could spare their hard-working, middle-aged mothers and fathers – or future in-laws – from supporting them – and having to work even harder. Never mind that by being self-supporting their fathers would have more time for their own learning.

 

         And because of that misguided attitude, wonderful bachurim are having a difficult time getting married. Because of this censor-like attitude, boys who are not cut out for serious learning, who really do not have the kop or the “zitzfleish” to truly learn – are warming up benches in the beis medrash – just so they can get a “good” shidduch.

 

         How ironic that girls are being influenced to turn down “earners”- many of whom who are machmir in learning in their spare time – just to marry boys who may or may not be the genuine article. Much to their deep dismay, some end up with husbands who aren’t learning – and lacking an education or skills – aren’t working either. That state of affairs is not conducive to shalom bayis.

 

         In another situation that I know of, a rav advised a young man in his mid 30s not to marry the young woman he was seeing – because she was a few years older. She eventually married years later, but was unable to have children. He is still single.

 

         In another case, a ba’alas teshuvah in her late 20s, from a divorced home, who unfortunately was not getting too many shidduchim offers due to her background, was told by her rav not to get engaged to the “kippah serugah” who she had met at a lecture and was dating. Each was what the other was looking for in hashkafos  and personality. The devastated young man insisted that he meet with her rav, who impressed by his ehrlichkeit and knowledge and practice of Yiddishkeit, grudgingly gave his “permission.”

 

         What would have happened if the young man hadn’t been so persistent?

 

         Many people have shared similar stories of how wrong information resulted in ill-fated marriages – and divorces – and likewise prevented a well-matched pair from even meeting.

 

         Those who are in the position to influence a shidduch should take heed of what they do or do not say – and be very mindful of the impact the words that come out of their mouths can have. To do otherwise is to risk having to explain on Yom HaDin – why they destroyed worlds.

Passing The Tests Of Life

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

         Life is a Test, the newest book by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis (ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications) may well be her finest one to date. Readers will laugh and they will cry, but no one will remain unaffected. There is a Hebrew saying that words that emanate from the heart enter the heart of another. The inspiring words in this book are sure to enter the heart of all who read them.

 

         What is life all about? This question has crossed the minds of most people at some point in their lives. Without a clear answer, people resort to metaphors, such as, “Life is a deck of cards, and you have to deal with the hand you are dealt,” or, “Life is a marathon, and you have to come in first,” or “Life is a game,” or “Life is a stage,” or even, “It is what it is.” But these metaphors leave us cold. Not only don’t they answer the question; they leave us very unfulfilled. How can we make a difference in this world if life is just a game?

 

         To answer these questions (in fact, all questions) the Rebbetzin turns to the Torah, our instruction manual, our blueprint for life. And from the Torah we learn the definitive metaphor for life – is that it is a test. “G-d tested our patriarch Abraham” – And He continues to test each and every one of us. Everyone has been created to make a difference, and every person has been molded by G-d for a special mission that only he/she can fulfill.” It is our job to discover what our mission is.

 

         Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis does not speak in platitudes. She knows what suffering is, and she has known the depths of despair. As a young girl growing up in Hungary during World War II, she was herded, along with her family, into a ghetto and from there sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Hunger, lice and despair were the way of life there, but the strong faith in G-d that Esther’s parents had imbued in their children kept them from giving up on life. Esther and her family passed this test and went on to rebuild their lives, and in so doing, became an inspiration to thousands.

 

         The Rebbetzin was tested again 10 years ago when her beloved husband Rabbi Meshulam Jungreis was called to Heaven in the prime of his life. After his death, she tells us, she found among his papers, in his own handwriting this brief note, “A long life is not good enough, but a good life is long enough.” So taking a cue from her gentle husband’s words, she did not throw up her hands and give up; instead she went on and continues to do good with her life.

 

         Jungreis explains that the tests that G-d sends us are wake up calls to help us attain our potential. So when we are challenged with trials, and tribulations overwhelm us, instead of sinking into despair we must ask ourselves, “What is the lesson I can derive from this … What message is G-d sending me?” And as we ponder the answer, by following the Rebbetzin’s guidelines we will discover the miracle that our very lives are.

 

         Many years ago, Esther Jungreis created the organization Hineni as a means to reach out to Jews everywhere and bring them back to a life of Torah. From small beginnings Hineni has grown to a worldwide organization responsible for bringing hundreds of Jews back into the fold. Life is a Test is filled with true stories of people who came to the Rebbetzin when their lives were troubled, many in the throes of despair, whether due to illness, financial problems or wayward children. And gently, through the wise counsel she imparts to them, we too learn the lessons of the tests of life. Sometimes the words seem almost poetic, such as when she wisely reminds us that at one time or another we will all die, “But whether we go on the wings of prayer and a legacy of faith, or in regret and shame, will determine whether we continue to live on (through our children).”

 

         Those fortunate enough to have heard Rebbetzin Jungreis in person at one of her many lectures may recognize a few of the stories, but reading them adds a new dimension to them.

 

         Towards the end of the book, Jungreis tackles the questions surrounding the Holocaust. How could it happen? Where was G-d? Her answer and the astounding story she relates will give the reader much food for thought.

 

         It is always our choice to pass the tests with which we have been challenged, or to collapse and succumb to depression. Esther Jungreis’ words are so personal and so inspiring that the reader will take heart and find solace in his/her most troubled times. He/she will refer back to this book often and gain strength during the hard times as well as the good. Those who do not believe will begin to believe again, and those who have faith will find their faith strengthened. That is a pretty exceptional accomplishment for an author.

Crises In Faith – Two Letters (Part I)

Wednesday, September 10th, 2003

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I was referred to speak with you by Rebbetzin _________________, wife of the late Rabbi ________________________ of ___________. The rabbi, zt’l, was my spiritual mentor and good friend, and prior to his unfortunate passing at a young age, I found solace and comfort in his wisdom and advice.

Since his passing however, our community has been without a rabbi, and I have had no one to turn to for advice on Jewish matters. Rebbetzin Jungreis, I have a question that has plagued me and is seriously hampering my religious growth. I do not feel capable of moving forward
and find myself slipping backwards because this question so much affects my belief in Hashem.

We are taught that Hashem is kind, loving, just and benevolent, and it is He who created the world and continues to play an active role. The book, ‘The Jewish Theory of Everything’ outlines this quite clearly and makes a clear and lucid argument for Hashem’s continuing role in the world. However, if HaShem is so kind, caring just, loving and benevolent, why does He allow children to suffer? Why are innocent helpless children abused, raped, left to starve to death, neglected, left to suffocate in locked cars, etc.”

You would think if Hashem was indeed involved in the world then he would take pains that innocent children do not suffer. I can grasp the concept that adults are capable of making choices between good and evil, but children are incapable of making that choice, nor should they be forced to suffer because some foolish adult chose evil over good.

I am beginning to believe that perhaps Hashem created the world and then turned around and walked away (figuratively speaking, of course). As a new mother, this question is on my mind constantly and I am concerned that it is starting to affect my entire belief system. I feel as if I am on a downward spiral and I would like to resolve this conflict so that I can raise my son as a good frum Jew with complete faith in Hashem.

I have read both ‘The Committed Life’ and ‘The Committed Marriage’ and found them both to be inspirational and applicable to my life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail and I look forward to your advice.

Letter # 2: ‘Where Do My Prayers Go?’

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I don’t know if you can help me. I really don’t know why I am writing, but I feel so full of pain and sorrow that I just feel that I have to share my thoughts with someone – and you, Rebbetzin, are the person who came to mind.

I have attended your classes at K.J. on Tuesday nights and also on Thursday nights on West End Avenue. I read your book - you touched and inspired me, but now I feel empty. My loneliness is unbearable. I am 44, never married, an only child of Holocaust survivors. I have no aunts or uncles. My parents’ families all perished in Auschwitz, so I’m truly alone. Five years ago, my father died, and now, my mother has been taken from me. In this entire world, I have no one. If I die tomorrow, no one will cry … no one will miss me, no one will even take note. Perhaps at my workplace, I’ll be missed, but they will quickly replace me, and in a few days, I’ll be forgotten.

All that I can handle - I guess that that’s my lot in life. I never married and never had the privilege of having children - and now it’s too late. Please don’t think that I am one of those feminists who intentionally refrained from marriage in order to focus on a career. That was not the case at all. I just didn’t have mazel…but it is what it is. I realize that I can’t turn the clock back, and I accept it, but what I cannot accept is the death of my mother. I always loved her deeply, but to tell the truth, for many years, we weren’t that close. She was a Holocaust survivor, and was overly-cautious and controlling, which I found very difficult to take. She wanted me to live at home until such time as I married, but we were always in conflict, so I felt it would be healthier for me to move out and take my own place, but unfortunately, that decision created an even greater rift between us.

Six months ago, she had a coronary followed by a stroke which left her totally incapacitated.. I realized then how precious she was to me and how deeply I loved her, so I closed up my apartment and moved back home. I prayed like never before that G-d give her years. I felt so close to her - we bonded in such a special way. For the first time, there was no tension between us. On days when she felt better, she would share stories of the Holocaust with me. In the past, she never spoke about her concentration camp experiences. Our relationship took on a new life.

My mother was never observant. Like many of her friends - other Holocaust survivors, she gave up on religion. But in those last few months of her life, her attitude changed. I would play your Torah tapes for her and she loved them. I even asked her if she would pray with me - something I had never seen her do. Amazingly, she agreed and she would repeat the prayers that I recited.

The doctors were satisfied with her progress, and I was really hoping that G-d had accepted our prayers and would perform a miracle, but then, He took her away. So I ask you, Rebbetzin, where did all those prayers go? What’s the point of praying? For the first time, we were close. I wanted so much to have more time with her, and it wasn’t given to me.

Since my mother died, I cannot pray and I haven’t attended any classes. I just can’t believe any more. I guess you’d call it a crisis in faith. Do you have any answers? Can you help me?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/crises-in-faith-two-letters/2003/09/10/

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