Articles From December 2017

Living Life to the End

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In this last article in the series “Living Life to the End,” I have tried to do something a little different. Over the past year, I have met many families who have cared for loved ones for a long time. Often, members of the “sandwich generation” caring for both children and parents, these families had seen their loved ones through extended illness, dealt with the health care system in all its complexities, and learned how best to cope with the responsibilities and stresses of caring for someone ill. And they have accompanied their loved ones through hospice until the end of life.

Every caregiving experience is different, and there is no blueprint that can be laid out for everyone. But as in any complex undertaking, learning from those who have gone through it is a valuable way to gain perspective and avoid mistakes. To that end, this article will not present my own thoughts but the reflections of some of the families who have navigated these waters and shared their experiences with me. While many of these issues would merit a deeper look, this can serve as a guide for thinking about being a caregiver and inspire further discussion.

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Bonding Soles, Bonding Souls


When I stepped inside the quaint, old-world shoe repair shop on Seven Mile Lane, close to Reisterstown Road, I was transported back several decades to my childhood in New Haven, Connecticut. The same ragged shoes and boots were piled high on a workbench, waiting to be rejuvenated; an array of shoe polish, creams, and sprays were lined up on a shelf; assorted shoe inserts, shoelaces, and men’s black rubber overshoes were prominently displayed; and key-making machines stood behind the counter. Even the earthy smell of leather was the same. The one difference was that this shoemaker also repairs watches and sells watch batteries!

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The Beautiful Life of Mrs. Esther Tendler, a”h

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by the Tendler Children

With the passing of Mrs. Esther Tendler, a”h, our family has lost our mother, mentor, and anchor. Our community has lost a role model, whose greatness was exceeded only by her humility and modesty. And all of klal Yisrael has lost a member who loved, respected, and saw potential in every Jew.

We cannot do justice to the nifteres, but we can attempt to glean lessons from a person who was such an inspiration to others, even as she herself remained in learning and growing “mode” all her life – and perhaps precisely because of this.

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Table for Two: A Kallah’s Cookbook

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Full disclosure: I edited this cookbook a year ago for Israel Bookshop Publications. So when the Where What When asked me to review it, I jumped at the chance. This has become my newest go-to cookbook – in fact, I was printing the recipes from my computer long before I got the hard copy of the book! And every single one of them has been a winner: delicious and different but at the same time familiar and straightforward.

Rivka Parizad, a proud Baltimore resident (albeit transplanted from New York), has done a magnificent job with Table for Two, which covers all the basics: breakfast, lunch, and supper; meat, fish, and dairy mains; Shabbos meals and desserts. As she shares in her introduction, early in her married life she found herself serving as a resource to her friends as they transitioned to wifehood and faced the daunting question, “Help! Do I have to make dinner every night? How do I do that?” For young marrieds, who are used to Mommy making the food, being responsible for putting supper on the table every night can be quite an adjustment. As Rivka advised and coached, she gradually realized that a cookbook just for kallas would be an invaluable resource.

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Teaching Our Children to Guard Their Tongues

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Every parent is horrified when his or her child says a bad word or speaks lashon hara. But before we run to get the soap, we should realize that children learn from a young age to repeat events, stories, and words they hear, and to report all the happenings in school. As the child gets older, he may not have developed the sensitivity to know when to guard his tongue and when to speak.

Since parents are obligated to teach their children that it’s forbidden to speak lashon hara, this education should begin as soon as the child reaches understanding. How can this be achieved?

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Does Your Plumber Know His Job?


We often take for granted that any professional who charges us money is appropriately trained, whether licensed or not. Perhaps we assume this because the plumbing field has been developing for over 700 years, and the licensing process looks almost the same as it did 200 years ago. But the plumber who walks in your door today may not be effectively trained, or may even do unsafe work. You probably won’t know it, though; most have learned to bluff through their work, and don’t believe they need to learn more.

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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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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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