Why My Neighbor’s Worried about Me

Why My Neighbor’s Worried about Me

My neighbor, Chava,* is really worried about me.

Some background. I met Chava when both of us were trying to help out the family of Nachlaot JewishMOM Chagit bat Leah z”l when she was dying and after she passed away two years ago. Chava, who lives in Nachlaot’s Charedi section, provided suggestions to assist Chagit’s 5 orphans that were unusually insightful and right-on. I was really impressed by her, and could tell that she had a lot of experience performing acts of kindness or chesed.

But I didn’t realize that one day I would also become one of Chava’s chesed projects.

It all started a few weeks ago when Chava dropped off about 50 old copies of Zarkor, a Charedi children’s magazine, for my kids.

It did seem a bit funny. Chava is surrounded by hundreds of Charedi children who would be thrilled to receive these magazines, but instead, she chose to carry this heavy bag across to the other side of the neighborhood where I live in order to bring them to my non-Charedi children….

When I called Chava to thank her for this thoughtful gift, somehow we started talking about the other magazines I read.

I mentioned Mishpacha, thinking she’d be thrilled to hear that I regularly read a Charedi magazine.

There was silence on the phone.

“I am sorry to have to tell you this, very sorry. But Gadolei Yisroel have forbidden reading Mishpacha because it doesn’t have a rabbinic advisory board. They are secular Jews in Charedi clothing.”

Then I mentioned that I read Binah, which has an advisory board of leading Charedi rebbetzins.

“Yes, I noticed this new magazine Binah,” Chava replied. “What are we going to do about this Binah?! A rebbetzin is not a rabbi!”

We talked about a few other things, and then I mentioned that every week I read the parsha sheets of Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi.

“ Yes, I once read one of her sheets. I’m not certain, but I believe her classes are intended for baalot teshuva. Not for you! Why don’t you read Yated Neeman? That is the paper of Gadolei Yisroel! Al Taharat HaKodesh!”

And this Monday, the day before the elections, I came home and discovered another gift from Chava: a copy of Yated Neeman opened to a full-page election ad that read:

“A Holy Declaration: From the great rabbis of the Jewish people, the mighty masters of Torah and Chassidut, for the Knesset list of United Torah Judaism: Gimmel.”

While we Weisbergs do try our best to live in accordance with the directives of Gadolei YisrAel, I have a feeling that Chava’s Gadolei YisrOel wouldn’t approve of a lot things about me and my family. They wouldn’t like my husband’s navy-blue kippah or my bare feet and sandals in the summer or my daughters’ denim skirts and school with an Israeli flag hanging in the entrance.

But the truth is that Chava’s attempts to “mekarev” me don’t bother me. In fact, every day that I come home and find a copy of Yated Neeman on my doorstep, I smile.

Because her kiruv attempts remind me of the opposite reaction I got when I was first becoming religious twenty years ago.

In the spring of 1992, I took off a semester of college to visit Israel, and started attending an Orthodox yeshiva for baalot teshuva. When I was living there, three or four times I visited distant relatives who live north of Tel Aviv.

These relatives spent entire Friday nights and Saturdays showing me around, taking me to Jaffa and the movies and to a dinner party and to the beach. They were also very secular and terrified that I was becoming religious.

Ziva, the mother, warned me in dark and dire tones: “Jenny, you are so naïve! If you stay at this yeshiva, soon you won’t agree to drive with us on Shabbat to see movies anymore! You won’t want to eat my special beef in cream sauce anymore! Before long, you won’t even want to eat in my house at all!”

And Ziva was 100% right. That was exactly what happened.

After Ziva and her husband’s negative reaction to my becoming Orthodox, I was terrified to go back to America at the end of the summer. What would my non-Jewish college classmates say about my crazy new behavior—refusing to eat Bowdoin’s famous cafeteria food, refusing to go to a Friday-night showing of “Casablanca,” refusing to shake men’s hands, etc. etc. I expected my classmates to rant and rave and haul me over the coals like my Israeli relatives had.

But something unexpected happened.

I returned to America, and my non-Jewish friends and classmates didn’t attack me or yell at me or give me dark and dire warnings about how I had been brainwashed. In fact, they didn’t say a word, because, I realized, they really didn’t care about all of my new crazy Jewish laws.

And I missed Israel.

I missed being in a place where people are so different but yet have one central thing in common: every single person living here cares about Israel and cares about being Jewish.

Even if that means they are angry because I am too religious.
Or they are angry because I’m not religious enough.
Or they are angry that I’m too far to the right.
Or they are angry that I am too far to the left.

They are angry and/or disappointed and/or sure I need to change my ways ASAP because they CARE.

And that’s a huge reason, JewishMOM, why I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but here.

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21 comments

  1. Maybe this “Chareidi” woman should take a lesson from Rebbetzin Kanievsky.. loving each and every Jew for what they are. Maybe you should give her that biography along with the one published by Feldheim about Reb Aryeh Levine ZT”L.. I like your blog a lot. You are a very sincere Jew and you have the right to do what you feel comfortable doing. Your Avodas Hash-m is between you and Hash-m.. and nobody else.

  2. Jenny, I was just two days ago wondering why you would choose to live in Jerusalem, versus the U.S., (since you were raised in the U.S.). This post came as a specific answer to my question! Love your answer! And I love how God answers the wonderings of the hearts! Blessings

  3. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Great point about how engagement is a sign of involvement. It’s indifference which causes concern. For some reason(s) Hashem hasn’t really ever wanted us Jews to be of one mind, and to always have to struggle to have unity. Thanks for seeing the positive aspect here.

  5. today was dedicated to how wonderful it is to live in the Jewish Homeland, surrounded by caring tribesmen.
    i read my friend henya’s post, describing a day running to kever rochel, the kotel, voting, and then home in migdal haemek her recurring theme: everyone cares about each other…

    (here’s the link: http://www.chickenstitches.com/blog/what-a-day-part-3/ )

    enjoy!

  6. I love that you appreciate her efforts to “help” you and don’t get offended, and that you can smile when you get yet another gift from this concerned friend. It shows you are confident in who you are and what you stand for, but at the same time, appreciate other Jews for who they are. Ahavas Yisroel like it’s supposed to be!

  7. Dear Chana Jenny,
    I hope readers wont get the idea, from the (albeit well-meaning) actions of this individual, that pushing newspapers on you is a religious obligation.
    And, if “Chava” talks to you again soon, you can tell her that Binah Magazine, a wonderful publication, has a Rav, a renowned posek to whom halachic and other questions are directed. The rebbetzins are just that- a top-notch ADVISORY board.

  8. Someone recently told me that the reason why some rabbanim are against Mishpacha is not, as I had thought, because of the wide range of topics they discuss, but because of the parenting articles, which put into children’s heads the idea that parents aren’t perfect and that sometimes, issues which children have are due to the parents. While acknowledging that this can be the case, this person told me that it can’t be done in a way in which kids can see it, otherwise, I think, it will lead to a breakdown in the parents’ authority. Any comments, anyone?

    • I have never read the magazine, but I just don’t like the judge mental attitude of her friend ” chana” because she does not know the people of the magazine to be saying that they are secular Jews dressed up in religious attire. Some rabinics things I believe are very political, and they pull towards there groups and if there not part of there groups they talk bad about other jews how there not as charedi as them, its so sad.

  9. I’m so sorry to hear that you are subjected to someone like this neighbor. I just want to point out that she is way off base when it comes to chareidi publications.

    Hamodia, Binah and Mishpacha definitely DO have Rabbinical supervision. Hamodia also publishes Binah, Binah Bunch and Binyan magazines by the way, and maschgichim go over every single word. So much for what she knows … but hey, at least you’re getting free Zakors out of this! 😉

    • I have written for all of the above publication and know they have mashgichim. I’ve have to make edits and even gotten rejection letters based on their concerns.

  10. This is a very nice blog, I want to also do Aliya but these are the things that hold me back. I need a neighborhood who is open enough that my children wont be judged on a daily basis in how they look, wear, etc Is nice to want to keep growing as a jew in a spiritual way but Hashem did not give us the tora so we can put all this pressure on each other. Its ice that she is “concerned” but don’t get it get to you. Do a step at a time and grow as a family, slowly , slowly i rather do one mitzva right a be happy than take a load on to myself and be miserable, and kids pick up on that and thats why so many “charedi” families are loosing their children and their children are worst than a secular person. i see it every day. like some of you have said we need to love every jew no matter what. and rebetzen Yamimma is for every one. I love her

  11. For the record mishpacha magazine absolutely DOES have a rabbinical advisory board, and their writers mention it a lot in their articles. Another point is that the last people to criticise baalei teshuva and our eclectic nature are the gedolei Yisrael: it is the multitudes around them that breed this attitude. Lastly, the fact that mishpacha reports on a broad range of topics only mirrors the Torah itself, which is the ultimate source for every possible topic in the universe.
    Thanks for a thought provoking post with a warm, yiddishe mama twist!

    • And one more thing, since reading mishpacha magazine I have learned, to my delight, that there is not one single gadol Yisrael in existence who does not say on record that they owe everything to their rebbetzins….!!!!

  12. I feel so badly for the mistaken woman trying to do chesed here. As YL said, Mishpacha does have a Rabinic board (just read the inside flap where it states who is on the board!, and the same goes for Binah. It could be that Rebetzin Yemima is speaking to BT’s, but her points are universal, and would that we all will put them into practice!
    Not all agree with Yeted either, so maybe the best answer is to not speak lashon hara about any paper, and thus help us to build Mashiach. I salute you Chana Jenny for your eyin Tova, you saw her in a positive light, as is your wonderful way. I think you can do chessed for her as well through your positive thinking!

  13. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

  14. But this is why I like living in Seattle – because nobody cares!!! Everybody minds their own business religiously and we’re all friends with each other.
    Everybody feels proud of where they are and their accomplishments because nobody is pushy or nosy about anything. My kids are so used to having friends who aren’t Jewish yet but in the process of conversion.

    My mom came to visit and was appalled at a mom who just wore a nose ring around. She was like, How could her kids not be embarrassed? I guess she’s been in NY for too long, nobody here cares!

  15. The rabbanim in Eretz Israel have an issue with the hebrew mishpacha. The English Mishpacha has a different staff, advisory board, and YES rabbinical backup.

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