A Letter from a Bais Yaakov Student


Dear Freedman family,

Upon hearing of Rabbi Freedman’s passing, I felt a tremendous amount of sadness and pain. For you see, I didn’t just lose a principal, I lost a father.   Rabbi Freedman epitomized what it means to be the ultimate mechanech. A few years after I graduated from high school, I wrote him a letter and published an article (anonymously) in Horizons magazine expressing my hakaras hatov. I realized even then that my life had been changed by his approach to me.  Back then, I thought that what made Rabbi Freedman special was that he cared so much about each girl. In the early 1980s, a girl with my skills and abilities could have been considered a “dummy,” and it was Rabbi Freedman who insisted on educational testing and proper intervention to help me succeed in school, and ultimately in life.

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Banishing the Loneliness with Light: Chanukah Tips from a Single Mom


It was the end of a long day of work and childcare. My two kids, ages four and five, were finally asleep, and I had collapsed on the couch to read for a few minutes before tackling the laundry and the dishes.

Shivering, I pulled my sweater more closely around me; winter had just set in, and the world seemed a dark and dreary place just then.

But duty called. I dragged myself to my feet and headed towards the kitchen, passing my wall calendar on the way to the sink. Was there anything to look forward to over the next few weeks? The Yamim Tovim were over; it was a while till spring. But Chanukah was coming.

Chanukah. I paused. Two years post-divorce, I had passed the initial shock and grief stages of my marriage’s dissolution. But I hadn’t yet found the way to infuse my lonely, meaningless existence with a measure of joie de vivre. All my life, I’d learned about the importance of serving Hashem with joy. Right now, though, I wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

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Presents with Presence


Chanukah is upon us. And what does every child (and adult?) eagerly anticipate after the Maoz Tzur and the latkas and the dreidel – or maybe even before? Presents, of course.

Gift giving and getting is a beloved part of Chanukah. But it is more complicated than it seems. First of all, there are the decisions. Will you be distributing Chanukah gelt or gifts? One gift or one gift per night? Expensive or cheap? Practical “need” or superfluous “want”? Then there are the feelings. Are gifts a source of happiness or anxiety? I polled some of my fellow writers from around the world for their two cents. This is what they had to say:

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I Wanna Be A….


With mazel tovs abounding, the birth of a child is accompanied by a wide-range of emotions and expectations. If the child is a boy, the hopes that he might one day become a talmid chacham begin to form. That this adorable baby boy could one day be a light unto his nation is an aspiration that many parents secretly harbor. It seems that the only person who is not on board with these grandiose plans is the little boy himself. This lack of shared vision generally comes to light around the time when your three-year-old triumphantly announces his professional goal: to become a garbage man.

Once you get over the shock, you realize that it’s probably better, at least for now, if you jump on the bandwagon, (or, in this case, the back of the truck). Let’s face it, for a three-year-old, there is a lot more excitement associated with being a sanitation engineer than with the aforementioned “vision.” Being a garbage man tugs at his little heartstrings and sings to his soul on many levels.

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As Chanuka approaches each year, I think about how I have not made latkes since last Chanuka. (After eight days of them, when my tummy says, “Enough with the fried food,” I remember why.) The old recipe comprised of potatoes, eggs, salt, and pepper fried in oil is my favorite. But it is fun to try something new and different every once in a while. Dressing up the good old standard potato latkes with toppings is an interesting spin (ha!) on an old standby.

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Dreams Come True : Baltimore Singles in Yerushalayim


Eretz Yisrael – the land of dreams, holiness, and beauty. For so many generations, a great multitude of men and women around the globe longed to lay their eyes upon this blessed land. How fortunate are we in our generation to grasp this dream, to walk on the soil of our Avos and Imahos, to taste its fruits, and to build homes of Torah within its borders. Every generation sacrifices in its own way to settle in Eretz Yisrael. It is true that in former times people had to undertake long voyages, and many who did arrive died of famine or plague. It is also valid, however, that in this generation, many who make aliyah sacrifice their familiar surroundings and, in many cases, living close to their families and  source of livelihood.

Singles who make aliyah alone experience life in Eretz Yisrael in various ways. In the first part of this series, we explored how single women from Baltimore find employment and community. In this article, the reader will get a glimpse of how singles find themselves socially, learn the language, and deal with being away from family. In the final article, we’ll explore how singles navigate shidduchim and some of the beautiful aspects as well as challenges faced here.

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With the increasing number of words being misused or so overused as to render them almost meaningless, I want to throw in my two cents. Not literally, of course – though from what I hear around me, some people may be waiting for me to ante up. When did so many people become enamored of the word “literally”? When did it morph from meaning “free from allegory or metaphor” to “really” or “very”?

Okay, I get that “really” became boring, but do we really need “really” (or “literally”) in most cases? Or do some people just think the more words they use the smarter they sound?

But beware: That plan can backfire – as when Sean Hannity proudly announced that “some politicians literally hate my guts.” I don’t think it’s your kishkas they dislike, Sean. 

Or when an eyewitness to a crime tells the reporter she was “literally shocked by what the man did.” I hope there was an EMT unit nearby.

My favorite example of the misuse of “literally” is from the book reviewer who interviewed the author of a harrowing account of a war-torn part of Africa. The reviewer concluded that the author had “literally been to hell and back.”

Now that’s a person I’d like to interview!

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The New Tax Law : Change Is Coming


Many people are waiting with bated breath to find out what President Trump’s proposed tax reform will mean for them. While the law has not yet been voted into law, it looks like it might be. This makes this year’s tax planning especially tricky. While the new law would only affect 2018, not 2017, it affects what we should do before 2017 is over.

New Law Highlights

Let’s look, first, at the new law. There will be many changes, some of them with serious repercussions for the frum community.

Repeal of the alternative minimum tax: The repeal of the AMT is long overdue. It is confusing and unfair. It “caps” the amount of your tax deductions. Furthermore, it limits how many of your children are tax deductible. I would say that the repeal is “good for us” as it worked against people with large families.

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The Latest in Jewish Children’s Books


It’s almost Chanukah! What better gifts to get for your kids than these adorable new offerings from frum writers and publishers? It’s impossible to showcase all the new books out there, but here’s a sampling for kids of all ages.

The Courage Club  , Written by Bracha Goetz:  Illustrated by Devora Younger  Published by the Jewish Children’s Book Club

Reviewed by C.B. Lieber

Baltimore’s homegrown superstar Bracha Goetz has done it again with this adorable book about Daniel and his friends standing up to King Nebuchadnezzar. Not only is the story told as a school play but the illustrations show the boys in the class dressed in costume, acting out the scenes on a stage, complete with an audience on the front cover. Bracha Goetz tells the tale perfectly in rhyme, and Devora Younger’s illustrations bring the entire story-within-a-story to life. The book ends with a call to all kids to join the “Courage Club,” and even includes a blank certificate of achievement that can be filled in by parents.

This is a terrific read-aloud book for kids, especially boys, with the story from Tanach coming alive and relevant to today’s kids. The only drawback is that the book isn’t available in local bookstores and can only be purchased on Amazon, the Jewish Children’s Book Club website, or through schools that order books from the JCBC. Contact the author at bgoetzstar@gmail.com for more details.


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Rabbi Freedman, We’ll Miss You

Any parent in Bais Yaakov in 1999 will remember the peanut revolution. Overnight, peanuts were no longer allowed in school. Why? Because one child in the school had a deathly peanut allergy.  Today, peanut-free schools are commonplace. Back then, it was unheard of. The parents protested: “What are we supposed to send in our kids’ lunches?” they asked.

But Rabbi Mendel Freedman, z”l, the principal of Bais Yaakov Elementary School from 1979 until 2015, stayed firm. “It’s pikuach nefesh,” he said, “and every child needs to be able to learn in a safe environment.” He had consulted with several rabbanim and wasn’t afraid to stand behind the new policy. To the teachers in the school, he said, “If it were my own child, I would do the same thing.”

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