More on Homeschooling
Thank you for addressing the topic of homeschooling (“Homeschooling: A Growing Trend,” by Avigayil Perry, fall 2015). As a parent who is a certified teacher with an MBA, deciding to homeschool was one of the toughest decisions of my life. Thank God, in Houston, we have a wonderfully supportive Orthodox community and have not felt ostracized in any way.
In the article, some expressed the idea that meaningful interaction is hard to come by among the homeschooled. I disagree. We spend much of our time learning at various museums and zoos. The staff have come to know and love my children. My children also do not get much technology time (no computer and limited TV) as we want them to play creatively, independently and with each other. Play is a child’s work, as over sixty years of research has shown.
On a related note, the high cost of Orthodox life is largely driven by day school tuition. At $15,000 or more in Houston, without a scholarship, the cost is simply prohibitive. Nevertheless, were the majority of schools to open programs for homeschooling children, they would discover perhaps that both groups of students can benefit. Only one (non-Orthodox) school I know of has offered to develop a homeschool program if there is enough interest. But as the movement grows, perhaps the metrics will drive the cart.
Remembering Rabbi Gettinger
In the summer 2015 edition, Rabbi Dovid Cohen wrote “Missing Rabbi Gettinger,” from his perspective as Rabbi Emmanuel Gettinger’s successor at the Young Israel of the West Side in Manhattan. I would like to write about Rabbi Gettinger from a different perspective. Rabbi Gettinger was our family rav for the past thirty years. Although we never lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, we got to know him and he became our morah hora’ah [halachic authority].
Rabbi Gettinger’s erudition was far beyond my capacity to judge, but his patience and his ability to understand and empathize were tangible. He rejoiced with us at our simchas and was there to provide meaningful support and direction in times of sorrow. He had the courage to pasken as he understood the halachah. He pursued what he felt was emes and directed us along that path. The pursuit of honor did not exist within his frame of reference. One of the few times he became truly angry at me was at my son’s chasuna, when he was called up to recite a berachah under the chuppah with the title “Harav Hagaon.” Rabbi Dovid Lifshitz referred to Rabbi Gettinger as the “Urim Vetumim” of Ezras Torah, the holy tzedakah organization to which Rabbi Gettinger devoted his life. A close relative of Rabbi Gettinger told me that there were times that Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, the revered rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, would call Rabbi Gettinger to hear his opinion on a matter, and say, “Gettinger, you think straight.”
Rabbi Gettinger was very much in tune with the American psyche. He was thoroughly grounded in the secular world, yet his yirat Shamayim and emunah peshutah were never compromised. One could simply observe the rav as he davened his “shtiller Shemoneh Esrei” and realize that he was literally standing before the Borei Olam.
Klal Yisrael should appreciate this adam gadol meod [tremendous human being] who was a “nechba el hakelim” [self-effacing]. My family and I, as well as many others who called Rabbi Gettinger their rav, miss him terribly.
Rabbi Avrohom Schnall
Monsey, New York
Celebrating 30 Years of Jewish Action
Your recent issue marking thirty years of Jewish Action (“Celebrating 30 Years of Jewish Action,” winter 2015) could surely have spared a couple of lines to acknowledge its predecessor, Jewish Life, which began in 1946 and lasted until 1982, and the extraordinarily dedicated Saul Bernstein, the editor during much of that period. Jewish Life provided serious, in-depth analysis of key issues in the Jewish world and provided a forum for healthy, and sometimes no-holds-barred debate at a time when Orthodoxy was far weaker than it is today.
For those of us of a certain age, it is sorely missed.
Rabbi Dr. Lawrence Grossman
Queens, New York
I write in response to the “30 Changes in Jewish Life Over 30 Years” feature in Jewish Action’s fascinating thirtieth anniversary issue.
It’s been quite a thirty years, and it’s a bit stunning to learn that the number-one change has been “GOP, here we come”—the alleged shift of Jews to the Republican Party. Now, thoughtful people can probably debate if either of our major political parties is indeed “more supportive of Israel and aligned with Torah values.” But what is hard to debate are the empirical results of dozens of studies and exit polls that suggest that, if any- thing, Jews were more likely to vote for the more moderate Republican Party of the 70s and the 80s than the current Tea Party driven version.
Suffice it to note that every Republican presidential nominee between 1972 and 1984 received at least 35 percent of the Jewish vote in averaged exit polls and that no Republican presidential candidate since 1984 has matched that number (Romney’s 31 percent in 2012 is the high watermark). The results are even more striking in Congressional exit polls. If anything, Jews were apparently more comfortable in the party of Nixon, Ford and Reagan than in the party of Carson, Cruz and Trump.
David Luchins, PhD
Bronx, New York
The author serves as chair of the Political Science Department of Touro College and was a national vice chair of Democrats for Nixon in 1972.
Abuse in the Home
Dr. Faye Walkenfeld’s review of the second edition of Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski’s vital book The Shame Borne in Silence: Spouse Abuse in the Jewish Community (fall 2015) made numerous important points. She writes, “education builds awareness and knowledge prepares people for different eventualities.” At Shalom Task Force (www.ShalomTaskForce.org), we educate 1,000 twelfth graders in the US annually and 1,000 young women during their gap year in Israel. We describe the tools needed for healthy relationships and the warning signs of abuse. Foremost, we help victims with a listening ear and expert referrals with our Domestic Abuse Hotline (888) 883-2323.
Dr. Alan Singer
Shalom Task Force
New York, NY
A Father Speaks Out About Addiction
I read your recent article on drug addiction in the Jewish community with great interest (“Coming Out of Denial,” by Bayla Sheva Brenner, winter 2015). Sadly, there was little in it that was new to me. I have been dealing with the addiction of a child for the last fi e years (in reality much longer, but I was obtuse to the signs). I am glad that this plague is finally “coming out of the closet.” I have had personal interaction with a number of the professionals Brenner quoted, all of whom deserve to be considered among the lamed-vav tzaddikim.
We in the Orthodox community live in a world where covering up defects is normal. No shidduch resume will state that someone’s brother was molested; no one will admit that his life is in chaos because of a child who steals, lies and faces death from overdose daily. Stigma is the operative word. We have to overcome the stigma and recognize that addiction is a disease. Parents shouldn’t have to live in fear of someone finding out, but we do.
I have found much succor and learned a great deal from attending 12-step meetings. There we see that we are not alone. It takes parents a long time to absorb one of our slogans: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.” No rehab, not even the $10,000 a month rehab/spa on the beach, can make the slightest impact unless the addict is ready to make a change.
One anecdote: a family in our community attended the same 12-step meetings that I do. At these meetings, we have the opportunity to share our feelings, and everyone responds with “Thanks for sharing, keep coming back.” Well, this family made a sheva berachos for their daughter who married a fine young student in a major yeshivah.
Each speaker praised the family for their yichus, their tzedakah and their wonderful character. They are “the best of the best,” everyone said. No one else in that room knew what they were going through with another one of their children. At the end of the sheva berachos, I approached the mother to wish her mazal tov. She looked at me with a wry smile and said, “Thanks for sharing.”
A Loving Father
Readers who wish to reach the letter writer can do so by contacting the Jewish Action office.