Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

Sinas chinam is alive and well in the Catskills.  As August descends upon our little corner of the world, the same people who hugged and kissed upon arriving in their respective bungalow colonies and homes suddenly develop “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” syndrome.  Those very women who smiled at each other a month ago, now whisper lashon hara behind the other’s back. The men who were so congenial at the summer’s outset change their seats in shul so as not to sit near those who have been branded undesirable.  The center lawn, where everyone once sat together in a large circle, now has clusters of smaller circles where private conversations are carried on in low voices as certain people pass by.  I am no better than the rest of them, I acquiesced for the sake of maintaining any sort of social life, but I hate it!

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Why do they go to shiurim and to hear divrei chizuk on Shabbos? It doesn’t take more than ten minutes after for the lashon hara to start again. How can Moshiach come?  Why should Moshiach come?  What makes us worthy of His arrival if we have learned nothing over all these centuries in Golus?  As a mother, I feel like a hypocrite. I teach my children to be nice to other children they do not particularly like, and yet, here I sitting on the lawn while my counterparts shushkeh about this one and that one and make snide remarks.  As a Jew, I try to love my neighbor and use my time and talents to help worthy causes, but sitting amongst women who are judgmental and critical of others, who make fun and deride those they feel are beneath them, makes me feel very guilty.

I am so unhappy and feel like such an outsider, both in this circle of plotters and outside of it.  I really belong nowhere!  Before every summer I promise myself that this year will be different.  This year I will be honest and keep to myself so that I will not be sucked into that abyss of ugliness.  This summer, I will be friends with everyone who will accept me on these terms and, if not, then I will read a lot, crochet and knit, and listen to music to stay busy and entertained.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I am determined that it will.

I am writing this because I know that my colony is one of hundreds if not thousands of places that operate in this fashion. July togetherness turns into August ugliness and we are reduced to tearing each other apart in private as we put on false smiles in public.  This letter is my first step in ensuring that next summer will be different.  I hope it will open the eyes of my sisters throughout the Catskills and elsewhere, to join me in truly changing our ways and accepting each other for who we are, Bnos Yisroel and sisters all.  Let’s try it, just once, and maybe, just maybe, in the zechus of being noshim tzidkonius, we can hasten the Geula.

Neshama Yehudit

Dear Neshama,

Even though, most assuredly, this is not your real name, you are the embodiment of its meaning.  Hashem did not create human beings to be perfect.  He created us to strive towards perfection by overcoming our shortcomings, correcting our failures and hurdling over the obstacles that keep us from coming closer to Him and hastening the arrival of Moshiach.  You, however, have found your path of righteousness, whereby change is possible if one only wants to work at it.  This is a true act of teshuvah.

I appreciate your predicament and I admire your effort to change yourself, because that is where your power lies, changing how you relate to others and how you wish them to relate to you.  Sometimes, change comes slowly.  Everyone has his or her moment of awakening, and you have clearly had yours.

Hopefully, the women you speak of will read this with an open mind and honest heart, and will recognize themselves and hear your words.  Hopefully, they will understand that each and every one of us has the ability to bring Moshiach, and that it is incumbent upon each of us to take responsibility to fix what’s broken. 

In the merit of good deeds, teshuvah and ahavas yisroel, may we be zoche to welcome Moshiach in our days.

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