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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yom Tovim’

Family Breakdown (Part Two)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

The response to my columns regarding family breakdowns has been explosive. It is evident that the unfortunate stories touched some sensitive nerves. It was my intention to continue on the theme of last week’s column in which I offered my thoughts on this crisis, but the latest letters and e-mails I’ve received have put a somewhat different twist on the subject.

What has emerged from these communications is a very sad reality: It is not only contemptuous children who are abusive and denigrate their parents; very often parents are guilty of the same thing, as are members of the extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

From early childhood I was aware of the dilemmas, challenges, and struggles that people contend with. My saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, was not only an eminent sage, he was also a man of great compassion who understood the yearnings and fears in every heart. People sought his guidance, his Torah wisdom. I was privileged to hear his compassionate counsel as well as his loving, disciplinary mussar – words of admonishment always dispensed with love. My work in outreach, imparting guidance and advice to people, has always been very much influenced by the teachings I absorbed from my father.

In more than half a century of active outreach I have heard almost every imaginable sort of difficulty, but the cruelty and hatred that lately has infiltrated our family life is a tragedy seldom before seen in our Jewish community.

I wish to share – though I do so with a heavy heart – excerpts from a letter that recently came to my office. Baruch Hashem, we live in a land of bounty. We have been showered with gifts that past generations could only dream of. But instead of being grateful we have become more greedy, more arrogant, more selfish, more demanding, more self-centered. Instead of inspiring members of our family to “fargin,” to be happy for someone else’s attainments, we have encouraged jealousy, which by its very nature converts itself into meanness of spirit.

This meanness is so widespread that we have come to regard it as the norm. But there are times when the stories are so outrageous that even the blind must see and the deaf must hear.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I am 84 years old. I am a Holocaust survivor, as was my husband, a”h. We both survived Auschwitz, but our families disappeared in the crematoria. We met in a displaced persons camp, and it was there that we were married. I don’t know if people today understand what that meant. We had no possessions. We didn’t have a penny in our pockets. I didn’t even have a wedding gown. But we had a dream of recreating our families and our people, and despite the fact that we didn’t have a home or a means of earning a living, we prayed that Hashem would bless us with children.

After the birth of our first child, we received a visa to the United States. Our hearts filled with hope, we boarded a ship that would take us to New York.

Soon after we arrived, we learned that my husband’s older brother was alive, and we moved mountains to bring him here. We rejoiced in the knowledge that someone else from the family had survived. Both my husband and I, as well as my brother-in-law, went to night school to learn the language. We worked hard and took any job as long as we could earn a livelihood and support our families. My brother-in-law was also married to a survivor. We saw each other regularly. Our children were not only cousins, they became close friends. We spent all the Yom Tovim together. Pesach was an especially meaningful time.

The jobs my husband and brother-in-law had paid very meager salaries. Then one day my husband came home with good news. One of his friends had told him about this wealthy man who was retiring and looking for someone to take over his business. His only son, a physician, was not interested.

My husband told his brother, and they explored the situation. It’s a long story, but bottom line, the two brothers became partners. Slowly but surely our lifestyles improved. We bought a house we could never have afforded in the past, and a few years later we sold the house and moved to an even better neighborhood.

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!

Where Did You Travel On Rosh Hashanah?

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

On the first day of this past Rosh Hashanah, I visited Milwaukee while my wife, Layala, traveled back to the shul of her youth in Brooklyn. When we met up later in the day for Yom Tov lunch at our Harrisburg, Pennsylvania home, we had a number of experiences to share with each other.

At this point I probably should explain those last two sentences, so that members of our shul do not get the wrong idea about how we spent Rosh Hashanah.

While any of our senses can help us tap into our repositories of memory, we know the singular power music and song have in helping us return to earlier times and places. The closer a tune is to our hearts and emotions, the more likely it can send us down the proverbial memory lane.

As observant Jews, there are probably no melodies closer to our hearts than those that stir our emotions each year during our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayers.

No two shuls use the same tunes for each of the many parts of the Yom Tov davening. As such, when one spends Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur in a new venue, one is bound to hear different melodies used in the course of the davening.

Since we have come to associate certain parts of the davening with the tunes that are familiar to us, hearing a chazzan or congregation sing a different melody can cause us to stop and think of the tune we normally associate with that point in the service. Recalling the familiar melody often transports us to a memorable Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur davening of another time and place.

My trip down memory lane this past Rosh Hashanah was triggered the first time we sang “HaYom HaRas Olam” (Today is the World’s Birthday) during Mussaf. While Kesher Israel’s talented chazzan led the shul in a lovely tune for that prayer, it just was not the one I associate with that part of davening. As I softly sang the prayer to my familiar tune, I closed my eyes and felt myself transported to a Rosh Hashanah more than twenty years ago.

I am a ninth grade student at the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study (WITS) – Milwaukee’s yeshiva high school. Though I left my hometown of Cleveland just a few weeks ago, I can already feel a whole new world opening before me. In that short period of time I have begun the process of bonding with new friends from all over the country, learning and developing meaningful relationships with the yeshiva’s rebbeim and experiencing camaraderie the likes of which I have never known before.

With the entire yeshiva gathered in the WITS beis medrash, the Rosh Hashanah davening is incredible. Mussaf has begun. After reciting the “Hineni” prayer in his melodious voice, Rabbi Ephraim Becker leads us in the most beautiful and haunting and inspiring Kaddish I have ever heard, and each of us recites our Shemoneh Esrei.

During Chazaras HaShatz, Rabbi Raphael Wachsman flawlessly sounds the shofar three times. Immediately after each round of shofar blowing, Rabbi Becker leads the entire yeshiva as we loudly sing the most moving rendition of HaYom HaRas Olam I can imagine.

I happily spent all four years of yeshiva high school at WITS, and that memory of us all singing HaYom HaRas Olam together will always be seared in my mind. As soon as we reached that prayer at Kesher Israel this year on Rosh Hashanah, singing the tune I associate with it allowed me to revisit one of the most special and transformative periods in my life.

When Children Fall Through The Cracks

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

As a regular follower of your columns, I am aware you are writing about your recent journeys that took you throughout the world on a mission to bring Torah to our people. I truly appreciate the importance of your work and have personally met many people who have become Jewishly committed after hearing you speak or reading your book. Nevertheless, may I be so presumptuous as to ask you to interrupt your series and respond to my letter, which is critically urgent?

I am involved in a situation that cannot wait, since it is so drastic that, if allowed to proceed, the damage could be irreparable. One of my best friends has a daughter who “went off the derech,” which nowadays is referred to as “falling through the cracks.” We have had many differences about it and she has become very resentful of me, to the point where our relationship has become very strained.

To give you some background: my friend has five children – three girls and two boys. The oldest is now eighteen and ready for a shidduch. She has a sister who is two years younger and is causing tremendous problems. This sixteen year old is one of those children who has “fallen through the cracks.” She was expelled from the yeshiva high school she attended, and with great difficulty my friend found another school for her – and now she is making trouble there. Her manner of dress, her conduct, her attitude – all are, to say the least, not befitting a yeshiva girl. My friend’s greatest problem however, is that this daughter will prevent her sister from finding a proper shidduch.

Yesterday my friend cried to me on the phone and told me many people advised her to send her daughter away to a special school that deals with problem children. My friend even confided to me that one relative told her it was time to face reality, to realize she lost a child and look upon herself as one who is in mourning.

When she told me this, I was appalled. How could a Jewish woman say such a thing? As a matter of fact, how could anyone make such a terrible, cruel statement regarding a living child? Instead of, G-d forbid, confronting reality by mourning for a child, she would do better by realizing that yeshivas are not cookie-cutters that produce children that are all the same. Every child is different and parents have to learn how to deal with that. I know full well that this is very difficult and painful. The suffering of Jewish parents committed to Torah who see their children spurn that legacy is beyond description, but to give up on that child and mourn for him or her – I find the very thought reprehensible.

When I told this to my friend, she started to sob and between her tears she told me she was afraid her older daughter would never even find a good date,because when people would see her younger sister they would not consider marrying into such a family. So she and her husband decided to follow the suggestion of some family members who felt that the best solution would be to send this daughter to a far-off school where she wouldn’t be in everyone’s face and would be among other girls just like her. In this way, she would not handicap her older sister.

I told her she should never – never – consider doing this; that, if anything, her daughter would deteriorate in such an environment. She would feel abandoned and loveless and, bereft of positive role models, she could slip to an even lower level. I also told her I was not just speaking glibly – that I had gone through a similar situation with my own child, so I was speaking from personal experience. To be sure, every case is different; nevertheless, there is a common denominator that connects them all. These children cannot find themselves in the normal yeshiva environment. They are like round pegs in square holes, so they rebel. Of course, other factors come into play as well, but the bottom line is that they just don’t feel they fit in.

I also told my friend I knew some people who did send their sons and daughters to one of these institutions only to regret it, because as devastating as their problem was, it became more so with that decision. I also related to her the story of a renowned rabbi whose son went through a similar situation. Nevertheless, this rabbi held his head high and walked down the street with his rebellious son and introduced him to everyone he met as “My son.” His love for him was above fear of what people might say. Life experience has taught me that parents who did send their children away created for themselves a scenario that went from bad to worse. Their children felt they had been cast away, that their parents were ashamed of them – and that very thought caused them to hate themselves as well as to hate them.

Someone else I know sent her daughter away and several years later I asked her if there was anything she’d do differently. Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Absolutely!” She went on to explain, “I wouldn’t have made my home into an inferno with quarrels day and night, and instead of sending her away, I would have been more patient and showered her with love.”

I think the time has come for parents to accept the fact that all children are not the same and not every child can reflect that which his parents envisioned their sons and daughters should be.

My friend became terribly upset with me and accused me of adding salt to her wounds by making her feel guilty. Our conversation became very tense, and at this point we hardly talk. I mentioned earlier that I am a mother who underwent a similar experience, but instead of dumping my son and berating him, I told him, “I love you and will always stand by you no matter what and despite what people will say.”

After numerous unpleasant letters from the yeshiva in which he was studying, I decided not to prolong the agony any longer and found him a job. Today, years later, I can tell you that this son has become a great source of naches to us. He finished his GED, went to college, graduated with honors, and married. Today he is the father of two adorable children who go to yeshiva. His home is a true Jewish home where Shabbos, Yom Tovim and kashrus are observed, and I must tell you that my daughter-in-law, a lovely girl, is careful about the laws of taharas hamishpocha. I thank Hashem every day for the wisdom He granted my husband and me in not casting our son away in his time of crisis.

I would truly appreciate it if you would publish this letter as soon as you receive it because my friend is about to make her decision and she is a great fan of yours who reads your column regularly.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

(Names and situation changed as requested)


 


Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.

 

Baruch’s wife was in long-term care. He visited her as often as he could during the week. But he still had young children at home and was determined to give them as normal a life as possible. The care facility had a room that housed families for Shabbosim and Yom Tovim. Baruch took advantage of this periodically. Initially, when he first placed his wife in the facility, he and the children went there every weekend. However, after a few months, Boruch realized that spending every Shabbos and yom tov in the facility was depressing his children and that they were coming to dread Shabbos.  While their friends were enjoying B’nos and Pirchei on Shabbos afternoon, they were watching their mom being spoon-fed. When everyone else was celebrating Shabbos with their families and friends, they were eating their Shabbos meal with strangers all of whom were visiting their loved ones in the facility.

 

Boruch wanted his children to feel close to their mother. He wanted them to develop a sense of responsibility toward her care but he was afraid that the constant visits were robbing them of their childhood and putting their future observance at risk. He didn’t want Shabbos to be a time they hated and yom tov a time of dread. And so Boruch reached a compromise. He would spend Shabbos with his wife twice a month; on one of those Shabbosim the children would join him and the other Shabbos they would spend with his sister. The other two Shabbosim they spent as a family, with friends invited over and time to join the Shabbos afternoon groups.  Over time, Baruch saw a change in his children and he knew that while this compromise might not solve the problem, it would help to put his family back on track.

 

But Boruch’s decision did not come without cost. Criticism was plentiful from friends and family. He was told he was teaching his children to neglect the needs of their mother and that he was being selfish. What amazed Boruch the most was that one of the people who was most direct in voicing the criticism of his lifestyle was the wife of the hospital chaplain. The chaplain ran Shabbat services at the local nursing home and hospital. He read the Megillah there on Purim and sometimes stayed over at each facility. Yet his family rarely joined him on these occasions. His wife and children stayed home opting to give their children a “normal” Shabbos with friends and family.

 

This year, the chaplain was asked to spend Pesach at the facility and run the Seder. His wife joked that she always had hoped to experience one Pesach somewhere where she didn’t have to prepare and could spend Erev Pesach just relaxing and finally know what it felt like to spend the Seders being served. But the hospital was not the place she dreamed of. She mused that she needed to be more careful of what she wished for and was concerned about how her children might feel about spending the two sedorim, and two full days at the facility. Relegated to spending oneYom Tov in the manner she had verbally imposed on Boruch gave the Chaplain’s wife a lot of concerns for her self and her children. But, it did not change her opinion on what Boruch should do. As a matter of fact, she felt it gave her opinion more authority, feeling that she now had a well spouse experience. Even though her children rebelled and said there was no way they would ever spend Pesach there again, she still insisted that Boruch was remiss in not spending every Yom Tov and Shabbos at his wife’s facility with his wife and children. After all, her oneYom Tov there, she said, hadn’t been so bad. Interestingly, she never spent a Yom Tov there with her husband again.

 

No matter how close people get to sample the life of those living with chronic illness, it is only a sampling. Opinions don’t change easily and righteous indignation often remains unchallenged. Well spouses and their families must live in a manner that makes sense for them without waiting for or relying on approval from those around them. Wishing people had a taste of what we go through in order to help them understand our life doesn’t change opinions and sometimes just makes them feel they are more justified in how they feel we should act. Even when our life is sampled, the experience is not enough for people to understand that our life is more than a sample – it is forever.


 


You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com.

The Holocaust Grandchild

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

           My mother’s recent yahrzeit after Pesach, coupled with Yom HaZikaron and recent Yom Tovim and Shabbatot spent with my children and grandchildren, has cemented my belief that I was robbed of a major life asset – my grandparents. While I knew that having them was a life-enhancing relationship, I didn’t truly comprehend it until I became one.

 

In terms of life’s milestones and-life changing situations, I’ve concluded that you have to “be there” or have to have “done that” in order to truly grasp the concept and totally fathom it. You have to walk in the shoes in order to understand the path. It really doesn’t matter how much reading or research someone does, for unless you experience something, it’s hard to truly “get it.” That is why there are support groups for all kinds of situations – i.e. bereaved parents, and those with addictions – consisting only of people who have lived through the same things.

 

While growing up, I had no idea what I was missing not having grandparents. It’s hard to miss what you don’t have. I knew it would have been nice to have a bubby and zayde, but it wasn’t part of my reality.

 

Over the years I gained some insight into the world of grandparents through my children’s interactions with their grandparents, but it was still as an “outsider.” It is only now when I myself am a bubby that I see how special and enriching that relationship is. I find myself pleasantly taken aback when the “older” kids (the three who can walk) run to me when I open the door, or want to talk to me on the phone when I’m speaking with their parents. It is a novelty, something sadly new to me. If I had had grandparents, no doubt I would not be surprised by my grandchildren’s reactions. But I am, because I never experienced the life of a grandchild.

 

Only once in my life did I taste that, and I still reel from its memory. On a visit to Israel when I was 19, I was introduced to a very old man at a gathering. In my young eyes, he looked beyond ancient. I barely gave him a glance, and he certainly had no interest in this teenaged girl from Canada. But then someone brought me over to say hello, and I identified myself. He suddenly perked up, peered in my face, and asked me in Yiddish, “Du bist Shimele’s einekel? – Are you Shimon’s grandchild?” I remember being floored by that statement. I was someone’s daughter, sister, cousin, friend – but I had never been viewed as or called someone’s grandchild.

 

It was a very bittersweet moment. I knew this was the first and last time in my life I would be referred to as a grandchild. I cherish that moment, and mourn it as the loss of such a crucial aspect of my childhood. I know that had I grown with the unconditional love, praise and support that is the gift grandparents bestow on their children’s children, I may have avoided some of the potholes that tripped me on my life’s journey.

 

Below is a poem in memory of my grandparents, who were murdered in the Shoah and who I still mostly associate with the flickering yahrzeit candles of my childhood.


 


For me there was no bubby,


To whom I was a cherished guest.


For me there was nozaide,


Convinced I was the best.


For me there was no grandpa,


To tickle me when I was sad.


For me there was no grandma


I could run to when Mommy was mad.


 


For me there were no grandparents,


With open arms and a welcoming lap.


Patiently listening to my chatter,


Or spinning tales that held me rapt.


 


For me there are no memories


Of the older generation I never knew.


No loving experiences to remember,


No magical moments to review.


 


I have no sweet recollections


Over which I can nod and smile.


To give them life inside my mind,


If only for a little while.


 


For me there are no gravesites,


Where I can go and shed a tear.


And share my thoughts with those long gone,


And feel that they are still near.


 


In my heart there is an empty space,


For my childhood contained a hole.


I had no past to guide my future,


A lacking that still takes a toll.


 


For me there were no elders,


The family albums were never whole.


For at birth I was a “grand-orphan,”


A deprivation that still gnaws at my soul.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/the-holocaust-grandchild/2009/05/06/

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