Articles by Tzipora Frager

The Key to Parnassa

shlissel challah

Year after year, I ask myself why I am doing shlissel challa. This is the custom of inserting a key into the challa dough for the Shabbos after Pesach. It wasn’t always that way.

When I attended Bais Yaakov of Baltimore, there was not much emphasis on segulos (protective rituals). Reb Yonason Eibshutz was mentioned in our Jewish history class only once as a Rav in the 1700s who had a dispute with Rav Yaakov Emden about cameas, amulets. It was explained to us that we do not use cameas nowadays. I got a similar answer about another esoteric subject. When I asked my father, Rabbi Moshe Shuvalsky, as well as Rabbi Steinberg, z”l, our principal, to explain gilgul neshamos (reincarnation), they both told me that it exists, but we do not delve into it, because we are concerned with keeping the Torah in this world.

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Down Syndrome 1979, Part 6 All Was – and Is – Well


Summary: Under financial strain from their baby Rafaels therapy needs, the Fragers weigh the pros and cons of moving to a different community. Tzipora is loath to leave her family, mentors, and lifelong friends in Baltimore, who give her the warmth and support she feels she needs to raise her son. She finally agrees to move after realizing that he would benefit greatly from the resources in the New York area.

Our move to Elizabeth, New Jersey, was good in the sense that it indeed provided excellent services for Rafael. However, Elizabeth in 1980 was a smaller community than it is today, and lacked the community resources a young family needed. For instance, there were no welcoming committees for new couples. I was extremely disappointed, because in Baltimore new families were welcomed by N’shei and the Ner Israel Service League. Shul was a major place to meet people, but since Elizabeth was also sans eruv, I was unable to attend on Shabbos morning unless I could locate a babysitter. (Although Baltimore also did not have an eruv at the time of our departure, I had family who came to me, and I had longtime friends, so I didn’t have to cultivate new ones.)

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Down Syndrome 1979, Part 5 To Stay or to Go? That Is the Question


Summary: With the bris over, real life with Rafael begins. Tzipora continues to grapple with her conviction to live with – and understand – emunah and bitachon. A jarring incident at a secular support group helps her realize that she should not judge the way others process grief, just as she doesn’t want others to judge her. Financial matters also come to the fore. While Rafael receives free once-a-week physical therapy from Baltimore City, the family faces mounting co-pay bills for services covered by private insurance. Maryland state law did not yet recognize the needs of families with children with disabilities, and in the Jewish community, too, there was little acknowledgment of or help for disabilities. The Fragers consider moving away from Baltimore.

Life finally settled into some semblance of normalcy. My schedule, as well as that of my toddler daughter, now revolved around Rafael’s therapy sessions. I did not go back to college to finish the BA I was working on. (I had planned to become a high school history and English teacher.) I also stopped teaching limudei kodesh at Bais Yaakov and various Hebrew schools. Instead, I attended three 90-minute physical therapy sessions per week at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. That was in addition to the hour of physical therapy he received from the City once a week in our home. Each physical therapist gave me homework to do with Rafael, in hopes that he would meet the first year’s physical milestones in a timely fashion.


Read More:Down Syndrome 1979, Part 5 To Stay or to Go? That Is the Question

Down Syndrome, 1979, Part 3

Summary: After the premature birth of their son, Rafael Shlomo Boruch, while attending a Shabbaton in Tennessee, Yehuda and Tzipora Frager learn he has Down syndrome. Distressed by both the diagnosis and the insensitivity of the staff, they were also buoyed by brachos from Harav and Rebbetzin Gifter, the support of their family, and the help of Dr. Steven Caplan, their pediatrician. Upon arriving home in Baltimore, they weather more ups and downs due to comments by friends and social workers. They start learning how to deal with their own emotions and decide to focus on practical matters, like getting

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Down Syndrome 1979, Part 4 The First Year: Hope vs. Reality

New Born Baby

Summary: Tzipora and Yehuda try to manage their reactions to advice-giving and other comments by family and friends in the first weeks after Rafael’s birth, and are helped immensely by their visit to Rav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, as well as their conversations with other empathetic mentors. The bris is postponed as the baby is hospitalized to stabilize his body temperature. The next step is a urologic examination to determine whether he could have a bris at all. Anticipating trouble, Tzipora brings her father and Rabbi Taub, zt”l, to the appointment, where Rabbi Taub proves to the smug doctor that all is well. The day of the bris finally arrives. It is a happy occasion, full of simcha and brachos.

As soon as the festivities of the bris were over, reality set in. Yehuda’s parents and brother made their exit by highlighting all the special needs supports Rafael Shlomo Boruch could have in a more sophisticated city such as New York. Others wanted to know our game plan for raising Rafael.

This was when I began to focus on the lessons from Tehilim (Psalms) that my twelfth grade teacher, Mrs. Shira Shapiro, taught. One lesson from perek 19 stood out. The perek discusses how the creations in the world give praise to Hashem by doing exactly what He wants each to do, and the creations do Hashem’s will in harmony. No creation is trying to outdo the other or trying to put the other creation in its place. Dovid Hamelech (King David) continues to state that we (klal Yisrael) need to see this as an example of the greatness of the Torah and copy this behavior. Knowing the essence of this perek has been a source of hope for me about Rafael. It made me understand that Hashem created Rafael; therefore, Rafael had a tachlis, a purpose in this world.

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Down Syndrome 1979. Part 2 Introducing our Baby to Family and Friends

Summary: Last month, Yehuda and Tzipora Frager wrote of the unexpectedly early birth of their son while attending a Shabbaton in Tennessee. When the premature infant was diagnosed with Down syndrome, they were distressed not only by the diagnosis but also by the insensitivity of the staff, who tried to convince them to leave the baby at the hospital. On the other hand, they were buoyed by the in-person brachos from Harav and Rebbetzin Gifter, and grateful for the support of their family and the help of Dr. Steven Caplan, their pediatrician in Baltimore.

Although I was overjoyed to be in Baltimore with my baby boy, I felt a sense of foreboding. In the Knoxville hospital, the TV was on in the room, and I was alone nursing my son, two nights after he was born. The program was suddenly interrupted with a special announcement about the Americans in Iran who had been taken hostage by Iranian students over two weeks ago. The announcer reported that the United Nations had rejected the United States’ plea to condemn the Iranians, who were threatening to put the hostages on trial. I felt my world crumbling, because I had never experienced a large group of my countrymen so helpless, with the strongest super power not able to help them. I really believed Moshiach (the Messiah) would arrive any minute, because of the anxiety I was feeling, personally and globally. I fervently davened (prayed) for Moshiach, because I wanted my son to be cured from Down syndrome – I wanted no one to suffer anymore.

Read More:Down Syndrome 1979. Part 2 Introducing our Baby to Family and Friends