On the Periphery
I’m writing in response to your issue on divorce in the Orthodox community (spring 2017).
As an FFB (Frum From Birth) woman, who since the time of my divorce has seesawed between full Orthodox observance and forsaking parts of it, it has become clear to me that it’s time I speak up. Time and again I flirt with the Orthodox community. Yet I invariably find myself frustrated, angry and mostly sad.
Keeping Shabbat has been a huge struggle for me since my divorce. The meal invitations rarely come. If I wish to be observant, I’m home alone for twenty-five hours—lonely, bored and soon enough, despondent.
My parents, who live several hours away, managed to reach an Orthodox rabbi in my community and ask if he’d invite me for Shabbat. His response? “No, I’m sorry. I’m not into kiruv.”
A while back, I had to be on modified bedrest for nearly a year. I received help from Bikur Cholim, an amazing organization, but rarely from members of my religious community. One frum friend did check on me regularly. But it was mostly my non-frum Jewish and Christian friends who showed me love.
I imagine I’m not alone in this experience.We identify as a nation of chesed that’s commanded to take extra care of those alone: the convert, the orphan and the widow. Do we know that the commentaries categorize divorcees as widows?
Of course, we divorcees don’t have to idly lament our plight. We can treat others with the respect, kindness, generosity, consideration and love everyone wants to experience. This Orthodox community is ours, even at times when we feel on the margins.
From the Child of a Rabbi
I read with fascination “In the Limelight: Children of Rabbis” (by Bayla Sheva Brenner, summer 2017).
My father was Rabbi Dr. Joseph Singer, who served as the rabbi of the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center in Brooklyn for fifty years. The sanctuary is dedicated to my parents and there is a street in Brooklyn named after my father. My mom, Rebecca Heller Singer, the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Heller, was a full-time rebbetzin until her death. Although my dad passed away thirteen-and-a-half years ago and my mom thirty-six years ago, I am still referred to as the rabbi’s daughter.
The Manhattan Beach Jewish community was one big family and it was a wonderful place in which to grow up. However, being the rabbi’s daughter in a community where you could count the number of religious families on one hand was difficult. I was primed early about whose house I could eat in and what I could be seen doing. I was quiet and shy, and the child of a rabbi is always expected to do more. I attended an elementary school where a core group of girls lived in the same area; [I lived in a different neighborhood], which reinforced my isolation. I wish there would have been support groups in those years for the children of rabbis.
Brooklyn, New York
The Power of Prayer
Yasher ko’ach on your issue “Exploring the Power of Prayer” (fall 2017). The issue will hopefully help our community close the gap between the impact our tefillot should have on us and the impact they actually have.
There is, though, an important topic absent from the issue and, notably, from Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb’s “The Best Books on Prayer.” His otherwise valuable article omits references to the revolutionary work done by modern scholars of Jewish liturgy. While they write principally for other academics, their insights are highly relevant for anyone who davens; in fact, they often write books and articles specifically for the lay davener.
These scholars begin with knowledge of traditional sources and then bring to bear tools that the authors cited by Rabbi Weinreb simply couldn’t have had (because of the time period in which they were writing), were not aware of or, for whatever reason, did not fully employ. The tools I am referring to include knowledge of the Cairo Genizah, the Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeological discoveries, and Jewish and non-Jewish texts from the centuries before churban Bayit Sheini and the early centuries of the Common Era, as well as modern tools of literary analysis. Contemporary scholars use these tools to give us insights into our tefillot that are dramatically different and deeper than that which was previously possible.
There is a long list of books and articles [that would provide] a greatly enhanced understanding of our tefillot and the brilliance of their composition and, ultimately, a closer relationship with our Creator.
Teaneck, New Jersey
Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb Responds
I thank Allen Friedman for providing ideas for further reading on the topic of prayer from an academic, scholarly perspective. I chose to limit my list of ten recommended books on prayer to authors who based their writings upon their traditional rabbinic scholarship and experience, who offer authoritative halachic guidance and who provide edifying spiritual inspiration.
What a wonderful article Jewish Action put together on rebbetzins (“The Contemporary Rebbetzin,” by Avigayil Perry, fall 2017). I sent it to my Yeshiva University Rebbetzins’ listserv and received some very appreciative responses. Even some of my children chimed in that it was a realistic presentation of the perks and challenges of the position. Thanks for doing such a great job.
Rebbetzin Meira Davis
Coordinator, Personal and Professional Enhancement Program for Rebbetzins
Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future