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CHINESE TAKEOUT! LEAH SHOWS YOU HOW TO MAKE YOUR FAVORITE CHINESE DISHES

NOVEMBER 6, 2013 / 3 KISLEV 5774 ISSUE 142

YITTA HALBE R MANDE STAM INVEST LBAUM IGATES

FOOD CURRENTS: WHY DO MY ONIONS ALWAYS BURN BEFORE THEY CARAMELIZE?

ISSUE 142 NOVEMBER 6, 2013 3 KISLEV 5774

Leah’s Authentic Chinese Dinners liv142_whisk_cover_v1.indd 1

10/31/13 7:35 PM

>>> REBBETZIN TWERSKI A TRIBUTE TO MY PARENTS >>> TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES I WANTED TO KEEP MY DAUGHTER’S CONDITION A SECRET >>> PARENTING A DESPERATE MOTHER TRIES TO SAVE HER SON FROM BULLYING >>> OUR DAYS A BUDDING THERAPIST EXPLORES HIS ROOTS >>> SCHOOL OPENING NIGHTS AND I >>> WHISK COME ALONG WITH VICTORIA TO KOSHERFEST 2013 >>> FOOD CURRENTS HOW DO I CARAMELIZE ONIONS WITHOUT BURNING THEM?


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CONTENTS

3 Kislev 5774 November 6, 2013

Features 22  Truth or Consequences

Was I doing my daughter a disservice, or giving her a fresh start? By Rea Bochner

29  Parenting

A desperate mother protects her son—no matter the cost. As told to Suri Katz

32  The Clean Bill

Getting to the heart of the matter: Are cardiac interventions often unnecessary? Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum investigates. By Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum

29

Departments 6

FOOD CURRENTS: WHY DO MY ONIONS ALWAYS BURN BEFORE THEY CARAMELIZE?

Editorial

ISSUE 142 NOVEMBER 6, 2013 3 KISLEV 5774

By Rechy Frankfurter

8

Letters

10 The Rebbetzin Speaks

Inside Whisk

By Rebbetzin Feige Twerski

14 Parshah By Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

4

in Whisk

18 Bytes By Miriam Glick

20 Debt Diary By Liora Stein By Chana Rose

48  The Narrow Bridge

By Victoria Dwek

By Peri Berger

12 Food Currents

50  Daddy’s Girl

By Racheli Sofer

By Dina Neuman

52  Our Days

22

The rhythm of our lives AMI•LIVING

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4 Chinese Takeout You can learn the same techniques Chinese restaurants use to prepare your favorite dishes. By Leah Schapira 10 My Day at Kosherfest Come with me up and down the aisles at Kosherfest.

44 Shidduch Saga

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By Victoria Dwek

By Basha Majerczyk

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2 Hello, Cooks

17 Golden Nuggets

Leah’s Authentic Chinese Dinners

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14 2 Girls on a Diet Challenge

By Basya Fruchter and Devoiry Fine


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Dear Readers, Whenever I have the good fortune to be in the presence of Rebbetzin Twerski,

she honors me by introducing me to others as “her friend.” Being the modest person she is, she won’t say the truth, which is that I am her number one fan. Throughout the years I’ve known her, each time I am privileged to have a conversation with her I am simply blown away by her sheer brilliance, especially in matters of the human psyche. I invariably come away inspired and enlightened by her wisdom. Therefore, when the Rebbetzin agreed to write a weekly column for this magazine, I was on a real high. And judging from the response of readers, you too greatly appreciate her offerings. Her column this week, in honor of her parents’ yahrtzeits, is both poignant and filled with important lessons about parenting. It is a must-read.

Editor in Chief Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter

Editorial

Senior Editor Rechy Frankfurter Managing Editors Victoria Dwek Yossi Krausz

The Rebbetzin describes how her parents were able to create an oasis of peace and tranquility for their family even as the outside world raged, and gives us pointers and advice on how to parent. But what is most revealing to me is how the love and approval she felt from them is still such a comfort to her today, so many years after their passing.

Feature Editor Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum Coordinating Editor Toby Worch Copy Editors Basha Majerczyk Dina Schreiber Rabbi Yisroel Benedek

In this week’s parenting feature, a young mother decides to chuck the “rules” of parenting. While convention dictated that she not intervene on behalf of her son, the sheer force of her maternal love propelled her to do just that—with terrific results.

Art

Art Directors Alex Katalkin David Kniazuk

I can attest to that. As a young teenager I was extremely homesick. One summer I braved (or was coaxed into) joining my friends in sleepaway camp. I was miserable. I tried hard to fight my homesickness, but it wasn’t easy. On visiting day my parents arrived, and the dam broke loose. I wept and begged my parents to take me home. They tried to dissuade me and asked me to stick it out a little longer, feeling that I belonged with my friends in camp. Some hours later, after supper, I was hit with another powerful wave of homesickness. I called my parents and begged them to pick me up. Again they encouraged me to stay, but I could not be consoled. We hung up with my parents saying they would check in with me later to see how I was doing. I was desolate.

Food

Food Editors Victoria Dwek Leah Schapira

Advertising

Executive Account Manager Zack Blumenfeld Executive Sales Directors Surie Katz Esther Friedman Europe Advertising 44 7891 297 866

About two hours later I suddenly spied my father’s car driving into camp. I will never forget the joy I felt when I saw him. It was like someone rescuing me from prison. As an adult, my homesickness is thankfully in the past, but I will always be grateful for his selflessness in driving an hour each way to pick me up and bring me back to the bungalow where my family was staying, especially since he had already made the trip once and had to get up at 5:00 the next morning in order to get to work in the city on time. Decades later, I am still suffused with a feeling of love whenever I recall the incident. I remember how my father really cared when I was in pain.

Advertising Coordinator Malky Friedman Markowitz Distribution 917-202-3973 646-247-0262

Ami Magazine

P: 718-534-8800 F: 718-484-7731 info@amimagazine.org

Perhaps some may think my parents broke some parenting rules that day. But the feeling of love and security that enveloped me then accompanies me to this very day.

Ami Magazine. Published by Mezoogmag LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form without prior written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The publisher reserves the right to edit all articles for clarity, space, and editorial sensitivities. Ami Magazine assumes no responsibility for the content of advertisements in the publication, nor for the contents of books that are referred to or excerpted herein.

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Rechy Frankfurter

rechy@amimagazine.org

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3 KISLEV 5774


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LETTERS

Who Is Really Daddy’s Daughter? It doesn’t matter

Happy to Read about Being Healthy Tania and Eddy are an inspiration In reference to “Preaching to the Almost-Converted,” Issue 139

In reference to “Daddy’s Girl”

Dear Editor:

Dear Editor:

I really enjoyed reading Machla Abramovitz’s article on Tania Basch. Tania is so conscious about being organic and transmits her thinking and doing to the reader. I really admire her determination in creating, with her husband Eddy, a great environmentally safe and healthy lifestyle for her family.

Good News, Tova and Lakey! Wondering which one of you Dad was referring to as “my daughter” in his will? Well…. It doesn’t matter. Why? Because the true answer leads to no good for you, and for the deceased. For a father to bequeath all he owns to one child at the exclusion of the other is either an error or an aberration. Who wants to gain, and cause pain to another in these two scenarios? If we could arrange a double sting operation, in which each of you thought you’d lost the court case, and each of you experienced that gnawing feeling of having been utterly nullified, I venture to guess that you would regret, retroactively, that you had not simply agreed to split the assets in two. Similarly, if we could arrange a double sting operation, in which each of you felt the bliss of victory, I’d like to think that the tugging feeling of survivor’s guilt wouldn’t be far behind. Being dealt with inequitably, by the very person Hashem entrusted with one’s nurturing and care, will probably leave one unable to experience the deceased’s yahrzeit with any positive reminiscences, nor to recite Yizkor with any more depth than mouthing the words. The winner loses, the loser loses, the deceased loses. No matter what the deceased may have intended, you don’t have to be a part of it. Just because someone dies, it does not retroactively make all his deeds holy. His deeds may remain as aberrant as when they were initially committed. And by accepting your good fortune at the financial and emotional loss of another close to you, you are doing more than being passive. You are taking an active part in the ugliness. So yes, here’s the good news: The identity of “my daughter” is a truth not worth pursuing.

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AMI•LIVING

Debating What Is Our Daughters’ Duty Our children need to learn responsibility In reference to “Letters,” Issue 139

Dear Editor: The letter titled “Not Your Daughter’s Duty” is, to say the least, puzzling! Our Yiddishe meidelach should grow up in the tradition that we know from our great-great-grandmothers. We want the teachers to encourage the girls to definitely participate in the responsibilities and tasks at home. Cooperation is the name of the game, even more so for us as Yidden. Life is not meant to be a one-way street! Let the teachers explain what kibud horim is all about. Let them explain (because parents don’t do it) what parents go through from the birth of their child till she or he becomes a mature adult, and let the teacher explain that it is the holy duty of this child to do everything to help the parents whenever or wherever possible just to make them happy and show them gratitude. After all, the parents provide them with all that is necessary to grow up and be an asset to society and their own family! How can Mrs. Gopin talk like that? Doesn’t she realize that by teaching kids to expect to be served she doesn’t do them a favor? Do you want to raise happy kids? Give them responsibility, and let them feel the satisfaction one gets from caring for and helping people, firstly one’s family, of course! In this kind of environment, contentment and harmony reign. And last but most important: love, trust, respect and patience! Active grandmother

Serelle Fuchs

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Arlene Abitan

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encore

Practicality for the “Parshah” A reader sends in shidduch tips In reference to “The Shidduch Saga”

Dear Editor: Thank you for printing the contact information for shadchanim in your Shidduch Resources page. Please print these tips for people in “the parshah”: 1. The résumé should be one page only. The second page often gets lost. There is no need to list a hundred references. Three references for the girl/boy and three references for the family is perfectly fine. 2. Don’t “over-call” before the first date. Call one or two friends of the girl/boy and one or two family friends. If you call everybody on the résumé before they even meet once, you are setting yourself up for burnout. 3. You benefit if you are open-minded. Give things a chance. If the girl/boy is not exactly what you had in mind, give it a shot if the important aspects are good in that person. Not everything is as it seems/sounds. 4. Don’t delay!! If the date didn’t work out, you should call the shadchan back as quickly as if it had. A rav said that, concerning someone who does not respond quickly, and the other side is waiting to hear, they [perhaps] are chayav on shefichas damim! Wishing everyone bunches of mazal, and everyone should find his/her bashert b’karov! Anonymous

H U G E S H I P M E N T O F N E W A R R I VA L S

The Apple of Mommy’s Eye Some things never change

Mommy might secretly love cute little Sarale best, for a variety of reasons described in Issue 41’s “The Apple of My Eye.” But which of Mommy’s kids takes number one place in her heart during adulthood? A recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family followed 406 older mothers to explore patterns of favoritism regarding care giving and emotional closeness. The researchers found continuity in patterns of Mommy’s favoritism. Who was more likely to be the best when Mommy is old? The child who is most similar and holds the same beliefs as her. Gender similarity was also found to be a consistent factor, the mother-daughter bond being particularly strong. So it seems that even though decades may have passed, Sarale might still be the apple of Mommy’s eye after all.

What Happens When the Baby Is Born? Recovering from autoimmune disease In reference to “The Clean Bill,” Issue 138

Dear Editor: Your article referring to autoimmune diseases prompted me to write this letter. I know a professional whose expertise can help reverses autoimmune diseases. I’ve seen people with Crohn’s, MS, and uveitis helped immensely. In fact, you at Ami have been the conduit once by putting someone with MS in touch with me because of an earlier letter I wrote to you. She’s on the road to recovery now. I have some information that may be useful to your readers. Feel free to contact me if interested. Esther Levy


THE

REBBETZIN SPEAKS

WHAT REALLY MATTERS

A TRIBUTE TO MY PARENTS, Z”L, WHO KNEW WHAT IT MEANT TO LAY A SOLID FOUNDATION By Rebbetzin Feige Twerski

T

he yahrzeits of my parents, Rabbi Yisroel Avraham and Sara Stein, z”l, both occur in the month of Cheshvan. As such, these days always give rise to reflection.

While it is impossible to distill the lives of our loved ones into volumes, let alone a few pages, there are nonetheless very instructive lessons to be gleaned from their lives. My parents were Holocaust survivors. They experienced those horrendous years and the unspeakable tragedy of losing family and the life they knew. Additionally, as was the case with so many of their contemporaries, there was the challenge of crossing an ocean and adjusting to a new world and a new reality. My family, which consisted of my parents and their four children at the conclusion of the war, became the proverbial wandering Jews. We took the first boat out to Israel but were refused entry by the British, who insisted that their quota for Jews had already been met. We then set out, refugees whom nobody wanted, to find dry land where we might deposit our war-torn bodies and

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regenerate our all-but-extinguished spirits. The refugee camps in Greece and Italy offered temporary respite until some years later, when we finally received our papers to go to America. I was a young child at the time, and I’m not sure if my memories of those years are real or conjured up by an active imagination. What I do know, however, is that what kept us going and helped us survive was the respectful and caring relationship we sensed between our parents. Regardless of the storms that raged outside, in the private space that

home. Many parents over the years have sought my counsel concerning their children. There are no pat answers. Great heavenly assistance is required on a moment-to-moment basis. I do, however, have a bias borne of my background. Children may react to the “stuff ” in their life, but if they have parents who are emotionally supportive of each other, they are much more likely to “roll with the punches” and land on their feet. A positive parental relationship provides a bedrock of security for their children. Regardless of

I have often thought how ironic it is that a single room in a refugee camp could generate greater peace and tranquility than what is often found in larger and grander homes. was home to our family there was a spirit of shalom bayis. I have often thought how ironic it is that a single room in a refugee camp could generate greater peace and tranquility than what is often found in larger and grander abodes. Clearly, it is not the physical surroundings that are critical to a happy environment. Rather, it is the positive affect and energy in the 3 KISLEV 5774

the challenges thrown in their direction, it gives them a level of consistency, congruence and cohesiveness, and the wherewithal to move forward. The other piece of wisdom gleaned from my parents’ lives was their understanding and appreciation of what really matters. Both, each in his and her own ways, had great achievements on


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their scorecard. My father was a magical public personality. To this day, anyone who met him or heard him speak will testify that he was a world-class orator, capable of inspiring audiences of thousands. His counsel was sought by the most prestigious Jewish figures of his time. He was so charismatic and his presence was so electric that “when he walked in, the band played.” My mother was a person who made her mark in the private sector. My father, who was sought by so many for his counsel, respected my mother for her wisdom and input. My mother was one of the most selfless people I have ever known. She transcended her own needs in deference to those of her family, most especially those of her husband. Yet, remarkable as these attributes were, it is something else that what was most significant and impactful to me. My life has been informed and shaped by the supportive, positive and loving comments of my parents throughout the duration of my formative years and beyond. Psychologists have noted that one can never be told too many times that he is loved. They additionally advise that for every critical statement there should be at least five positive ones addressed to those who are dependent on us for their emotional nurturance. I used to hear my father talking to his friends about me in superlatives. His eyes would shine with pride and


THE

REBBETZIN SPEAKS

approval at my slightest achievement, or even “just because.” My mother’s statements of gratitude and blessing for every kindness rendered her still ring in my ears. In light of the above, I would offer the following advice: Our achievements, professional and public, admirable as they might be, pale in comparison to the

a childless woman of Shunam in return for her kindness gifted her with a child. One day, when the youngster was in the field with his father, he took ill and died. The woman ran to the prophet and in desperation beseeched him to restore her child to life. What transpired thereafter reads as follows: “Elisha came into the house and behold, the lad was dead, laid

Our achievements—professional and public, admirable as they might be— pale in comparison to the investment in a personal relationship with our children. investment in a personal relationship with our children. The kind words, the taking of time to notice, the creation of an atmosphere that is safe for discussing anything on their minds—these are the things that at the end of the day resonate and register on the Richter scale of the human psyche. Rabbi Meir Shapiro, z”l, of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin in Poland and a mentor of my father, used the text in Sefer Melachim to identify the requisite elements for a life-giving relationship with a child. The narrative is an account of Elisha the prophet, whose blessing to

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out on his bed. He entered and shut the door behind them both and prayed to Hashem. Then he went up and lay upon the boy, placing his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes and his palms upon his palms…and he warmed the flesh of the boy.” Rav Meir Shapiro, the consummate educator in his psychologically-brilliant approach, instructs us in how to restore and “warm the flesh” of our children. The first thing Elisha did was to “shut the door behind him,” pointing to the fact that every child needs focus and undivided attention. Every individual 3 KISLEV 5774

requires his moment in the sun that makes him feel unique and special. The second step is that he “placed his mouth upon his mouth.” This refers to finding things to discuss with one’s child that one might share in common. The third element, placing “his eyes upon the child’s eyes” involves looking at things from the child’s perspective, letting go of one’s own bias and seeing things as the child sees them. Obviously, this does not absolve us of the responsibility to guide our children. Nonetheless, the power of being heard, understood and finding common ground cannot be underscored enough. My parents gave us that and more. Without a doubt, my siblings and I drew and continue to draw upon the strength of our upbringing. Despite the often painful and difficult context of our past, it is fair to say that our parents gave us the fortitude that enabled us to deal with the vicissitudes of our own lives. And for that, we will be eternally grateful. Yehi zichram baruch.  Rebbetzin Feige Twerski is the mother of 11 children and many grandchildren, whose number she refuses to divulge. Alongside her husband, Rabbi Michel Twerski, she serves as Rebbetzin to her community in Milwaukee, and counsels people all over the globe. The Rebbetzin is a popular lecturer, speaking on a wide variety of topics to audiences in America and overseas. She is the author of Ask Rebbetzin Feige and, more recently, of Rebbetzin Feige Responds.


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PARSHAS VAYEITZEI // By Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

PEACE OF MIND

Y

aakov did what he had to do. As bitter as the trek to his uncle’s home must have been, and the distaste he experienced at having to live in the house of his unscrupulous relative, Yaakov followed the directive of his mother and arrived in Charan. Upon his arrival he asked about Lavan’s welfare. The Torah tells us: “Jacob said to them [the shepherds whom he met by the well], ‘My brothers, where are you from?’ And they said, ‘We are from Charan.’ He said to them, ‘Do you know Lavan the son of Nachor?’ And they said, ‘We know.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is shalom with him?’ They answered, ‘Shalom [it is well]; and see— his daughter Rachel is coming with the flock!’” (Bereishis 29:3-5). The responses to the questions seem strange. When Yaakov asks, “Do you know Lavan,” they don’t say yes. They say, “We know.” When Yaakov asks “Is shalom with him?” they do not say yes. They do not say that “there is shalom with him”; instead they answered ambiguously, “Shalom.” What could be the reason for the lack of specificity? Somehow I am reminded of the two candidates for Congress who were scheduled to speak the same evening in a small town in Kentucky. The schedules were tight and there was only one large auditorium in town, so the two agreed to speak the same evening successively in front of the same audience. The local sheriff was given the honor of introducing the rivals. He stood up and began: “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce to you a man who has always stood tall for the state of Kentucky. He is a man who cares deeply about each and every one of its citizens and has the rare ability to understand not only the needs of our county, but also the needs of our country and the important challenges we face in the world of foreign affairs. He is a man who has immersed himself in the

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It’s not easy to really “know” someone you don’t want to know. knowledge of economics as well as the field of education. It is my honor to introduce to you…” He turned to the two candidates and in a whisper asked, “Which one of you turkeys wants to speak first?” The shepherds knew their customer. But they were not about to berate Lavan directly. So when Yaakov asked if they knew Lavan, they didn’t say yes. Because it is impossible to really know a chameleon that changes its coat. So they answer evasively: “We know.” When Yaakov invoked the holy word shalom and asked whether there is shalom to Lavan, a man who clearly

3 KISLEV 5774

epitomized the turmoil of deceit that is the antithesis of shalom, they responded very dispassionately: “Peace.” Not to any one in particular, just “peace.” Because indeed there is no peace to those who are wicked. It’s not easy to really “know” someone you don’t want to know, and surely it is even harder to specify any good trait “to him,” when there is indeed no good trait to be found. Because if there is no commitment, then there is no peace. n

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Toras Chaim at South Shore and the author of the Parsha Parable series.


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As told to Dini Perlmutter

Didi

Chapter One

I

’m Menachem Weis - that’s with one “s” only. I was born in the Windy City, Chicago. When I married my wife, Chaya, I headed out west to settle in her hometown, Los Angeles. A great place for a great start. We explored the palm lined avenues, discussed the future and admired the striking homes. We would compare the differences between Chicago and LA. Sometimes I would even allow myself to dream of moving back to the heartlands of America. My wife and I both had satisfying jobs and earned enough to begin building our money nest. As our account grew, our home and hearts felt emptier. We waited for a child to fill our sunny apartment with living light. Nine years passed. Until Didi shined in. Didi our daughter, is named after my mother who passed away of cancer. Her Hebrew name is Adina and her official name is Edith. Didi is her own combination. That should tell you enough about her. With her smile and big girl ideas, our home was bright.

When I relaxed after a fulfilling day, I’d pat myself on my back- mentally, of course. Things felt under control and safe. I’ll get straight to the story of my life, though. Leukemia. That’s what my life centers around. When Didi was one and half she developed a high temperature which didn’t let up even after a few days. We visited the pediatrician. Dr. O’Brian smiled at Didi as the stethoscope tickled her skin. We watched him squeeze Didi’s stomach and his smile settled into a tight line. My wife and I looked at each other, our lips becoming tight, too. Didi shattered the silence with a loud stubborn cry. From the pediatrician’s office we set out to Children’s Hospital for blood work. I searched my memory for the stories my friends recounted; how pediatricians would send them to the hospital for a teething baby. This was probably not serious either. One at a time, blood droplets dripped into the tube and the countdown for results began. We paced the hallways. I

counted the tiles; my wife’s stroking on Didi’s hair became more aggressive as one minute brought another. After some time the doctor walked into our room. He studied Didi for a few moments, his eyes washed over my wife and me. “I’m sorry,” he said, “it’s Leukemia.” The biggest person I’ve ever seen just knocked me to the ground and blew the wind out of me. He was standing with one foot on the ground, the other on my neck, watching me gasp for breath. I’ve never felt so powerless. So helpless. So unprotected. I knew what cancer was. I knew how this disease grabs hold and takes a toll on a body. I’ve seen that happen to my mother. Now, the doctor says the same monster has grabbed hold of Didi, my mother’s namesake. How will her journey be different?

Coming next week: The second leg of Didi’s journey.


GOLDEN NUGGETS // By Basha Majerczyk

THE POWER OF BITACHON

O

ne time, the Baal Shem Tov was directed from Above to go to a certain village and stayed in the home of the town’s tax collector, an elderly, kindhearted Jew who was only too happy to have guests. The following morning when they arose to daven, a policeman came to the door carrying a heavy stick. The man walked in, banged it on the table three times and then walked out. Neither the Baal Shem nor his disciples knew what it meant. But when they glanced over at their host, he didn’t seem to be concerned. About a half-hour later the scenario was repeated. The policeman walked in, banged on the table three times and then departed. When the Baal Shem Tov asked his host the meaning of this strange occurrence he replied, “It’s a warning to remind me that I’m supposed to make payment on the lease today to the landowner. After the third warning, if it isn’t paid, he’s permitted by law to take the tax collector and his family to prison.” “Well, you don’t seem overly concerned, so I assume you have the money,” the Baal Shem Tov said. “Why don’t you go pay the landowner now before breakfast and we will wait for you?” “Actually,” the man replied, “right now I don’t have a cent, but I have faith that Hashem will provide me with the funds. There’s no reason to hurry through

breakfast. After all, there are still three hours until the deadline.” At the end of the meal the policeman returned and delivered the third and final warning. Still, the tax collector seemed unperturbed. Birkas Hamazon was recited unhurriedly, after which the man changed into his Shabbos clothes and put on his wide gartel. “Well, I’m off to pay the landowner,” he announced. “So you do have enough money?” the Baal Shem Tov asked him. “No,” he replied, “but surely Hashem will get it to me somehow.” After the man left, the Baal Shem Tov and his talmidim went outside and stood on the porch to watch what would happen. A few minutes later they saw a wagon slowly coming into view, and the wagon driver getting out to exchange a few words with the tax collector, who was walking in the opposite direction. The driver then climbed back in and continued on his way. A moment later,

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though, he turned around and called the tax collector back. He then counted out a wad of money and handed it over. When the wagon neared the porch where everyone was standing, the Baal Shem Tov asked the driver what he had discussed with the tax collector and why he had called him back. “It was a business proposal,” the man explained. “I told him that I wanted to buy all the whiskey he would make this coming winter, but the price he cited was too high so I drove off. Then a minute later I reminded myself that he is a very honest and decent man, and that I should just pay him whatever price he believed was fair. I called him back and gave him the whole sum in advance, but he told me he couldn’t stop to chat because he was in a rush to make payment on the lease.” Declared the Baal Shem Tov, “Just see how mighty is the power of bitachon!” n

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BYTES

// Morsels of Wisdom, Wit and Popular Advice By Miriam Glick

Sleepy at Work HOW TO BEAT THE SLUG AT THE DESK EXERCISE, EXERCISE Get a good stretch-out. Boss won’t let you out to the local gym? Do some deskercise. Move around, wiggle your toes, stretch your hands, and stand a little as you work. OFFICE SPA Splash some water on your face for a quick pick-me-up. TEA TIME Sip some green tea as you work. It has less caffeine than coffee and it’s a great way to stay alert. NAP TIME Have a power nap, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, but not more.

SWITCH TASKS Working on the same task for a while? No wonder you feel sleepy. Switching tasks will make you feel more stimulated and alert. WALK IT OUT Punch out for a few minutes. A walk

around the block will give you a booster to keep on going. PREVENTION Try to prevent the sleepiness. Eat a good breakfast, small lunch, stay hydrated, and most of all, get a good night’s sleep!

COOKIES AND CREAM

THE EXTRA SPECIAL GOODNESS INSIDE YOUR COOKIES Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? The guy who was addicted to it. Wondering why you keep on reaching out for another Oreo® cookie? Surprise, surprise! They are addictive. No, seriously—as addictive as more illicit substances. You know the cream in between, the one you lick up before you eat the actual cookie? Yeah, that. Rats were found to be just as likely to become addicted to it as well. And surprise, surprise: They went to the middle first. In a study done by students at Connecticut College, Oreo cookies were given to rats. The team found that the lab rats formed an “equally strong association” between the pleasure of eating Oreo cookies and being in the same environment as

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known addictive substances. “Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” said Professor Joseph Schroeder in a statement. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods, despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.” Although sugar may give us a high, it’s actually quite dangerous. “Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like…morphine, high-fat/high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability,” said neuroscience major Jamie Honohan. Pass the cookie jar. On second thought, just pass the fruit bowl.


PUTTER

AROUND

the

HOUSE

INTERNET CAMP

A CAMP FOR WEB-SURFING ADDICTS Internet addiction is a serious problem and Japan is taking no chances when it comes to their teens. In a study done at Nihon University, researchers surveyed the Internet usage of almost 100,000 students. About 8,000 of them were found to be “pathologically addicted” to the Internet. “It’s becoming more and more of a problem,” Akifumi Sekine, a spokesman for the ministry, told the Telegraph. “We estimate this affects around 518,000 children at middle and high schools across Japan, but that figure is rising and there could be far more cases because we don’t know about them all.” The Daily Telegraph reports that “[t]he ministry is planning a comprehensive research project into Internet addiction in the next fiscal year and has asked the government to fund immersion programmes designed to get children away from their computers, mobile phones and hand-held game devices.” This Japanese camp is an Internet fasting camp: a camp where the students unplug, and enjoy life without being stuck to the screen. Or they could just have Shabbos once a week...

BEYOND A BUBBLY BEVERAGE

SELTZER IS NOT JUST A THIRST QUENCHER, BUT A HANDY HOUSEHOLD TOOL

GOT MILK?

SCRUB Just like vinegar, seltzer breaks down dirt and bacteria. Apply with cloth to stainless steel, chrome and porcelain.

DRINK FAT AND STAY SKINNY Calling all dieters out there: Drink whole milk! No, this is not a typo. For the past decade, major medical organizations have been yelling to drink skim milk to combat obesity. Well, now they have been switching their song. A new study found that the higher the fat in milk children drank, the lower their body mass index score was. Children who drank lower fat milk actually weighed more!! “Our original hypothesis was that children who drank high-fat milk, either whole milk or two-percent, would be heavier because they were consuming more saturated fat calories,” said author of the study Dr. Mark Daniel DeBoer, an associate professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “We were really surprised when we looked at the data and it was very clear that within every ethnicity and every socioeconomic stratum, that it was actually the opposite: that children who drank skim milk and one-percent were heavier than those who drank two-percent and whole.” One theory suggests that whole milk makes one fuller, leading him to eat less. Whatever the reason, delight your taste buds as well as your waistline. Drink milk—with the fat. 3 KISLEV 5774

SCRUB HARDER Parked under a tree and found some unpleasant droppings on your windshield? Shake the seltzer bottle, then spritz. Tadah: mini-car wash! FLUFF Swap the water or milk for some gassy seltzer when you make potato kugel, kneidlach, waffles or pancakes. The carbonation will give a lighter, airier texture to your food. CLEAN Use seltzer as a stain remover for clothing. SOOTHE Got an upset stomach? Before reaching for the medicine chest, have a glass of seltzer instead.

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true s ’ e l p ou ir One c y of the ver stor to reco ial ggle stru om financ fr ter disas tein

aS r o i L By

Diary

Recap: Liora consults a household budget maven who tells her how to score bargains on groceries. A close friend asks if they can host a Friday night sheva brachos, which they can’t afford.

Part 12: Learning to Curb When I mistakenly open up to my well-meaning parents about our debt struggle, they overwhelm me with their suggestions: “Move to Charlotte, where your cousin Ben lives,” says my mom. “He bought a six-bedroom house for $250,000.” “If you don’t start bringing in more money, you’re going to have to sell the house,” my dad says. “I warned you it’s going to cost $9 million to raise four kids, especially if you’re sending them to Harvard,” cautions my mother after I accidentally vent about my late hours doing freelance graphic design. So when I tell Tzvi I need more clothes for teaching, I’m wringing my hands, waiting for a lecture. The reasons I need to update my wardrobe are twofold: We have moths, and I need to wear clean, neat clothing to school five days a week. I keep stretching what I have until the moth holes grow and the garments become too ratty to wear. Plus, now that I’m scrutinized daily by teenage eyes (and to set an example), I feel that my stretched-out shells and moth-eaten, oil-stained skirts need to be replaced. At least I have a paycheck now. At the store I walk toward the slouchy separates I’ve favored as a stay-at-home mother. Should I buy more of the $20 ankle-length skirts I wear at home, and just cut them shorter to meet the staff dress code? A sales

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girl asks if I need help. “I don’t know where to start,” I answer, heading toward the same too-long black modal number I’ve worn for the past decade. “I can only help with outfits,” she jokes, as she lifts new merchandise up to the high racks on the side wall of the narrow store. “Do you have mid-calf skirts?” I ask, looking at the crowded racks of clothing as my heart races. The saleslady brings me one. I try it on, feeling like a balloon as soon as I look in the mirror. “It looks great,” she coos, as she scans my messy ensemble. I’m suddenly self-conscious of my baggy sweater. I notice the run in my stockings that my longer skirt was hiding. “It’s not the right shape,” I say, complaining. Help! I have such limited time to take care of this! I don’t want to argue with the salesperson. The storeowner intervenes just in time, having overheard my cry for help. She brings me several skirts that are a better shape, along with cardigans that transform the clothing into outfits. Then she advises me when to wear each item. “It’s a lot to get dressed up every day,” I say. “There should be a clothing allowance for teachers,” she says, sympathetically nodding her head. I feel taken care of and skip home with my purchases, ready to get to work on the next design for my latest client—an out-of-town kiruv organization.


WEEKLY SPENDI NG

The check I receive over the weekend alleviates some of my anxiety over having to expand my work wardrobe. And yet, the cushion from the missed mortgage payment is getting smaller by the day, as I sneak in little things I’d have put off before, like a café mocha in the late morning to perk me up before I deliver my history lecture. Yet, Tzvi’s fine about my clothing purchases. “I’m not so concerned about the small things,” Tzvi says, soothing me. The guilt of having yet another shopping emergency this month makes my chest tighten. Next month we’ll make do, I promise myself—with no spending on anything but groceries, tuition, utilities, and the mortgage. “Oy! That’s it for this month,” I say, hanging up my new clothes. “No more shopping! The emergencies are taken care of.” “I’m impressed that you got so many bargains,” Tzvi says. It’s true that instead of going to the mall, or sidelining my mother into bankrolling a shopping spree, I went to a moderately priced Jewish store where I was able to get six items for $200. Tzvi appreciated

“I’m just about ready to go hang up signs on the street seeking advice,” Tzvi says, shaking his head in disbelief. my new look, and my kids declared that I was now finally dressed like a regular morah. “I can’t believe she cancelled,” I tell Tzvi, complaining about my acquaintance who cancelled our breakfast meeting. I’d hoped she could offer strategies specific to our situation to guide us out of debt. “I’m just about ready to go hang up signs on the street seeking advice,” Tzvi says, shaking his head in disbelief. I know what he means. There are plenty of debt relief organizations promising to negotiate or consolidate our debt. And there are plenty of financial planners who wish to one day sell us stocks or mutual funds. But financial counselors familiar with the frum lifestyle seem elusive so far. When I’d utilized our bank’s financial counseling team, the recommendations were off-kilter and unrealistic, too focused on college and retirement. I hadn’t been able to find the words to detail that we might need to pay for a wedding rather than college. Tzvi pauses the conversation to answer the door for a

(sprea dsheet appear RESTAU s mont RANTS hly) Anothe ������������������ r nigh t of t akeout MAASER . Boo! $45 ���������������������� We upp e earnin d maaser to $360 gs sin includ need t c o ask e September e my a rav. . Stil l BABYSI TTING More w ������������������ o babysi rk for Lior tting a $40 fees. ; more ATM�������������������������� What i s this ?! $100 CLOTHI NG�������������������� Liora w to buy ork clothes $2 moth b c alls! risis! Need 00

tzedakah collector. Waiting for Tzvi to return to our conversation, I come across an article that jolts me: “Most Americans know that they should save for retirement and pay off their debts. Yet they often don’t do those things.” I felt small, diminished, typical and completely impulsive while I read through an interview with economist David Laibson. “Who’s going to help us?” I ask, wondering for a moment if it’s just a lack of self-discipline. “I hope you don’t mind, but I asked a couple of the guys,” Tzvi says and then pauses, “for a recommendation.” “Wow,” I tell him, shaking my head up and down. I want to scream from relief. He’s opening up about it; he’s reaching out for help. I’m not alone in this mess. “I put a call in to a guy named Riley,” Tzvi tells me. “He helped Gross get his money in order.” I think about the sheva brachos we hosted last Friday night. Thirty people gathered to celebrate a new couple at our table. I deflected compliments on the food because I hadn’t made it, ordered it, or spent anything for the honor of hosting a brand-new couple. Others who are closer to the baalei simchah stepped in and catered the event; we only had to offer our dining room, and serve. In the past we’d never have mentioned any financial burden. We’d have charged away, hoping to be repaid one day—after 120 years— for the mitzvah. But Tzvi spoke to the families and set boundaries. And now, also, I’d kept to the budget I set for the clothes. “We are changing,” I tell him. “We can change.” n



To be continued... 3 KISLEV 5774

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TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

a f re s h s t a r t 17

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Giving my daughter the atmosphere she deserved As told to Rea Bochner


My daughter Leora is a good girl: thoughtful, sensitive, kind, and mature, an ancient soul in a 12-year-old’s body. She’s also brilliant, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mother. She taught herself to read at two years old and she can pick up almost any instrument and play it like a pro within a day or two. She’s likable and fun, and she has a great sense of humor: You should see the crazy skits she’s always putting on with her sisters. No doubt, Leora is a great kid. She’s just a little…quirky. At first, it wasn’t so noticeable. When she was little, she never liked getting her hands wet—it was torture trying to get her to wash negel vasser—but in the grand scheme it made hardly a blip on the radar. Then, as she got older, she started to worry about losing things, like her barrettes. She would fixate on them, getting anxious if one of her sisters went anywhere near the bathroom drawer where she kept them. Finally, Leora took an empty box of wipes and put all of her barrettes inside, opening it constantly to make sure they were all still there. Sometimes, she would even line the barrettes up on her bed and count them, one by one. She would insist on taking the box when we went out, “just in case.” We assumed it was just part of Leora’s creative personality, a cute phase she would outgrow soon enough. But she didn’t outgrow it. In fact, once she started school, things got much worse. The anxiety that once came and went when she was little became almost constant; she told us she had “scary thoughts” that something terrible was going to happen, but when we asked her what it was, she couldn’t tell us. She developed these intricate little rituals, like zipping and unzipping her backpack four times before slinging it onto her shoulders, or eating anything in “small pieces,” like peas or corn, one at a time. Everything in her room, from the sheets to the hangers, had to be just so; we eventually had to move her into her own room in the attic, because sharing the space with her disorganized sister made Leora so agitated she couldn’t sleep. The same thing went on at school, where her desk and all of her supplies had to be perfectly aligned or she wasn’t able to concentrate. Leora’s schoolwork also had to be perfect. She would agonize for hours over her homework, sometimes staying up as late as midnight writing her answers, erasing them, and writing the exact same thing over again. It wasn’t that she thought what she had written was wrong, it was that she thought that “something bad” might happen if she didn’t go through the routine of writing, erasing and rewriting every answer at least five times. Leora would be tired at school the next day so she wouldn’t perform as well as she wanted to, which, of course, kicked off the anxiety and set the whole process in motion again. We would often get concerned calls from her teachers about her anxiety, which was becoming so intense that the other kids were starting to avoid her. We attempted to work through it with Leora, trying to have patience when she held us all up with her obsessive routines. We thought if we offered her incentives, like a new toy or a special treat, that it would help her overcome her rigidity. When she came to us to “confess” all of the terrible things she thought she’d

We thought a fresh start would be good for her. Which is why, when they asked on the enrollment form if Leora has ever been evaluated or received therapy, I left the answer blank. done that day—one night, she obsessed about a wrapper she threw out in the cafeteria that might have fallen out of the garbage—we tried to assure her that it was okay, that it wasn’t the end of the world. Then the day came when she broke down crying in the middle of school and couldn’t stop. Her friends, her teachers, and even the principal all tried to calm her down, but she was inconsolable. They finally had to call me to pick her up. At home, after a long bath, we were able to calm her down enough to tell us what was wrong: The teacher had unexpectedly rearranged all the desks in the classroom and “it just wasn’t right.” After that, we couldn’t ignore the fact that Leora needed more help than we could give her. We took her to one of the city’s top child psychologists to have her evaluated, and it didn’t take long for her to come back to us with a diagnosis: Leora had OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder. It was devastating to hear our daughter labeled that way, and I felt guilty and ashamed that I had let her suffer with it for so long without help. But it was also a relief: Now there was something we could actually do about it. We started Leora with an amazing cognitive behavioral therapist who patiently showed her that the routines she’d developed to get rid of the “scary thoughts” were actually making those thoughts much worse. She helped Leora see that if she wanted her thoughts to change, she would need to change her behavior first. Our daughter would have to face her fears, without trying to protect herself with her rituals, in order to learn that nothing bad would happen to her. The two years since we started with the therapist have been a series of advances and setbacks, especially as Leora struggled socially at school. The other girls were put off by her intensity and left her mostly to herself. Baruch Hashem, she was never bullied, but she was lonely. Meanwhile, she has been able to let go of many of her behaviors. It’s still not perfect, and it will probably never be. But at least now Leora has tools to help her cope. And she’s going to need them, now that she’s started at a new school. This year, we decided to send Leora to a smaller place, out of town. She’ll have all new teachers and, hopefully, some new friends. We thought, after all she’d been through, a fresh start would be good for her. Which is why, when they asked on the enrollment 3 KISLEV 5774

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TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES form if Leora has ever been evaluated or received therapy, I left the answer blank. “Do you think that’s really beneficial to Leora?” my sister asked when I told her about it. “This is something that is important for them to know.” I didn’t agree. “I don’t want my daughter going in there with a ‘label.’ I don’t want her treated any differently.” “Right, but they might be able to deal with her better if they know about her history. What if she has an episode in school?” “She won’t,” I insisted. “She’s been doing so much better. She hasn’t had an episode since that last one, and that was two years ago.” “Maybe,” my sister replied, skeptical. “I just don’t think you’re doing Leora any favors by keeping this to yourself.” It was easy for my sister, the mother of five metzuyanim, to say something like that. All she’d ever heard from teachers was how brilliant and wonderful her children were. She didn’t know what it meant to have to protect a child from other people’s judgment. I stood firm in my decision and didn’t say a word to anyone at the school about Leora’s OCD. Leora started at her new school and, in the beginning, there was every indication that I’d been right to go with my gut. She came home happy every day and felt confident in her schoolwork. She even made a few friends. Although Leora still had a few small rituals at home she hadn’t quite let go of, in general, her anxiety was a fraction of what it used to be. So I was surprised when, a month or so into the year, I got a message from her teacher: “Hi, this Gila Malachi, Leora’s teacher. I was hoping we could find a few minutes to chat; nothing’s wrong, I just have a couple of questions about Leora. Would you mind giving me a call when you can? Thanks.” I felt the muscles in my neck tense up. Leora had been doing so well—was the stress of the transition getting to her? Maybe it was just a temporary setback. I decided not to return the message just yet. But a few days later, she called again: “Hi, Mrs. Nussbaum, Gila Malachi again. Still have a couple of questions for you when you have the time. Is there something about Leora I should know? I’d really appreciate it if you could call me back. Thank you…” I knew I should call her back, but I kept hoping Leora would bounce back after she got used to her new routine. Besides, would it really help her if her teacher knew about her diagnosis? And then almost a week later, I got another message from her teacher, though this one was tinged with annoyance: “Hi, Gila Malachi. Again. I’m sure you’re busy, but I just need a few minutes of your time. Please call me back, even just to let me know you’re getting my messages.” She was right; it was disrespectful of me not to at least return her calls. And I would, first thing in the morning. Tonight, I had a wedding to go to. I put on my black suit and pearls and ran out the door. I didn’t plan on staying at the wedding long, just to wish the kallah a mazal tov and give a kiss to her mother, whom I’d known since we were in seminary. The room was crowded when I got

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there and the line to see the bride was long. I decided to head over to the smorgasbord until the waves of people thinned out a bit. I was filling a plate with sashimi when I heard a voice behind me. “Mrs. Nussbaum?” I turned around and my stomach dropped. It was Mrs. Malachi. “Hiiiii….” I said, feeling like a kid about to get detention. “How are you?” “Baruch Hashem,” she replied. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you.” I was barely able to look her in the eye. “I know. You must think I’m the worst mother ever.” She shook her head. “Maybe a little phone-challenged, but I’ve dealt with much worse mothers than you. I had one who thought her daughter went to a different school.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m sorry if I was abrupt in my last message,” Mrs. Malachi said, “I just wanted to make sure I spoke to you before the deadline.” “What deadline?” “I’m forming an after-school enrichment group for gifted and talented students, and I wanted to offer a spot to Leora.” What? “That’s what you were calling me about? I thought…” I trailed off, unsure of what to say. “Yes, well, I noticed at the beginning of the year that Leora is way ahead of the rest of the class; like, way, way ahead. And her mind works so fast! Anyway, I looked at her records from last year to see if there were any academic evaluations done, but there were none. I called you to see if you had ever had her tested. When I didn’t hear from you, I did an informal evaluation myself, and I was amazed with what she knew; your daughter is brilliant, though I’m sure you already knew that.” I was stunned into silence. “I thought she’d be perfect for the gifted and talented group, but I couldn’t put her in until I talked to you. The deadline is tomorrow; can I sign her up?” Mrs. Malachi asked. Still shell-shocked, I had to force myself to answer. “Ya—uh, yes! Yes, of course!” “Oh, good!” Mrs. Malachi replied. “I think it will be great for her.” “Thank you,” I said. “Thanks for thinking of her. And I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier.” Mrs. Malachi smiled warmly at me. “No problem.” Over her shoulder, I saw that the line for the bride had shortened considerably, and I excused myself to go. “By the way…” I heard Mrs. Malachi say behind me. I turned around. “Yes?” “My brother has OCD. He used to clean our house so obsessively my mother got a job because she was so bored.” My mouth fell open. She knew about Leora. Mrs. Malachi reached out and gave my arm a pat. “Your secret’s safe with me,” she said, and disappeared into the crowd. n To submit your story for this column or to have your story featured here, please contact us at submissions@amimagazine.org.


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Does the

When

Thread Counts the

By Daniel Perez

For years I pondered this question. As my face touched the soft pillow cover, I would wonder about the different types of linens, and why people were always making such a fuss about high thread counts, and their fabrics’ country of origin – Egyptian cotton, Indian silk, and so on. I asked around, and some friends directed me to Ben Barber at Elegant Linen, a popular household brand based here in New York. I called him up and told him that I want to learn about the process of creating linens, to share with my readers. He offered to meet me the next day at his factory in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Ben Barber and Itchey Citonenbaum, the company’s co-owners. Walking into the factory, I was taken aback by what I saw—a veritable beehive of activity, with about 40 seamstresses sitting at their tables sewing each linen set with their hands. My first question to Barber was: Why are you doing this here? Why not outsource the whole process and bring it in ready-made from China? Ben Barber took a deep breath and explained, “To deliver the quality linen that will give you a good night sleep and last for decades, you have to have full control over the process.” He and Citronenbaum then went on to share their process. Praising the professionalism of his staff, Citronenbaum notes with pride: “Many of our employees have worked by us for over 25 years.” “They’re artists,” he adds, “they’re like Italian tailors.” With their keen eyes and skilled hands, the designers, cutters, and seamstresses employed by Elegant Linen create items that truly live up to the company’s name. Another advantage to finishing products in their own factory, Citronenbaum explains, is their ability to produce bedding in custom, hard-to-find sizes, typically unavailable at the big department stores. Elegant Linen’s elegant linens aren’t limited to the bedroom, either. They offer a wide range of stylish home goods, including designer towels, tablecloths, even challah covers!

quality of your linen set improve the quality of your sleep?


Ben Barber at Elegant Linen’s New Utrecht location. (inset) The store’s new special “Back Room” offers a relaxed setting for browsing Elegant Linen’s high-end offerings.

Despite the decidedly old-world craftsmanship, Elegant Linen is a modern, highly efficient operation. A large screen hanging from the ceiling uses colors and numerical codes to let each employee know what they should be working on at any given moment. And scannable barcodes on everything let them track orders from start to finish with pinpoint accuracy. “We’re like UPS,” says Barber, “we can always tell you where anything is.” While Barber and company would certainly prefer that a kallah’s family do their shopping in advance, this sophisticated tracking system helps ensure that orders go out in a timely fashion. Mr. Barber explains why, in his line of work, a quick turnaround is so crucial. “A lot of our business is in the bridal trade,” he says. “Young women getting married, couples starting new homes. Their families want to get them something in time for the wedding, or the housewarming, and often we receive the orders on short notice.” “But baruch Hashem, they come to us because their parents came to us, and their grandparents came to us. We are proud to have developed a reputation for quality that has earned us the loyalty and trust of many multi-generational customers.” Elegant Linen certainly goes the extra mile when it comes to maintaining a skilled and organized labor force, but it’s the raw materials themselves where Elegant Linen truly spares no expense. “You can buy a cone of thread for $1.60, and I’m buying for $4.95. Why? The $4.95 thread is good, it will hold up for 20 years. That other one, you’re getting [on sale] because, for instance, maybe it was in a fire. The fire didn’t touch it, but [it affected the quality]. Or maybe it was left out in the sun for a long time. And in three or four months, the fabric is already showing signs of wear and tear.” In addition to their products’ longevity, the folks at Elegant Linen also pride themselves on the sheer variety they offer. As of this writing, Elegant Linens has more than 1800 different designs of fabric from

which they make their custom housewares. “All the department stores put together don’t have what we have,” Barber declares. To accommodate their ever-growing product selection, Elegant Linen is expanding. They already do brisk business through their three stores, and their location on New Utrecht Avenue recently expanded their floorspace with a beautiful back room for custom high-end orders—and plans to add a new upstairs showroom in the near future. “Since we move so much merchandise through our stores,” says Barber, “we’re able to get fabrics for cheaper. Other wholesalers are happy to work with us, and the end result is that we are able to pass these savings on to our own customers.” Mr. Barber boasts that in addition to their own product lines, Elegant Linen also carries housewares from other top brands, including Sferra, Matouk, Jacadi, and Nancy Koltes and many more. They even have their own private line of quilts, pillows, mattress pads – even bed bug protectors. “If you don’t see it in the store, that doesn’t mean we don’t have it,” Barber says. “Moreover, our sales people are also skilled decorators. They’re a valuable resource, and we encourage our customers to take full advantage of their expertise.”


Part of the all-new 18 bed Showroom.

SETTING THE TRENDS While their policy as a retailer is “no order is too small”—they’ve prepared custom orders for as few as two sheets at a time—Elegant Linen also services a broad array of wholesale clients. “We produce goods for a lot of high-end department stores,” says Citronenbaum. “We’re making their stuff, and they’re selling it in the city for eight times the price!” “I will show you a set of linens,” Barber chimes in, “six pieces, that we sell in our store for $345. They sell the same in the city, just the duvet cover, for $1,060!” Not content to passively fulfill the whims of luxury stores, the people at Elegant Linen have become tastemakers in their own right. “You know how popular brocade fabrics are these days?” asks Citronenbaum. “Feel this,” he implores, holding out a sample. “We were producing this stuff 15 years ago, before people even knew what it was—and today, the whole world sells it!” “Whenever there’s a new idea, we’re the ones coming out with it,” says Citronenbaum, “because we have the cutters, we have the sewers, and we’re not afraid to experiment.” He explains that while he and Barber attend the trade shows and stay on top of the latest trends, sometimes the major retailers turn to them for inspiration. “On several occasions,” Citronenbaum notes, “we’ve received awards for innovation at European trade shows.” Not bad for a humble manufacturer catering to a largely heimishe clientele. With their reputation as a linen producer on the cutting edge (pun

intended) of household fashions, some might assume that their products might be beyond the reach of those with modest means, or—as is often the case in the frum community—large families. Describing budget-conscious customers as the backbone of their business, Barber and Citronenbaum inform us that, despite to their reputation for luxury, their linen sets start at as little of $79. “People are often intimidated,” explains Barber, “because they think we only carry very, very high end items, but it’s not true. What we have is high quality. I won’t sell a hundred-dollar set if it’s not good quality.” Whether one decides to spend big on the finest fabrics, or budgetary constraints lead one to a more modest purchase, Elegant Linen stands by the quality of their product at all price levels. And as Citronenbaum explains, few things impact the ambiance of a room the way linens can. “A nice set of linens for two, three hundred dollars, can do a lot more for a room than redoing the walls or hanging a painting,” says Barber. “It’s an easy, inexpensive way to make a room beautiful.”

“We produce goods for a lot of high-end department stores. We’re making their stuff, and they’re selling it in the city for eight times the price!”


PARENTING

Operation

Save My Son as told to Suri Katz

At What Price?


PARENTING

MY

Operation Save My Son

son Ruvi was always a bit socially awkward. As a threeyear-old, his peers would whiz by on their riding toys, laughing and giggling, while Ruvi, confused, would end up fighting to be included in their games. That only pushed the children further away from him, retreating when they would see “big, bad Ruvi” approaching. Shani Levitansky was his play group teacher. With endless patience and love, she slowly, gently and lovingly taught Ruvi the ropes of social interaction. I supplemented her “lessons” with supervised playtime with friends in the afternoon. And he was a quick learner. He blossomed under his morah’s warmth, guidance and unconditional love. Like a flower unfurling, Ruvi became more confident and self-assured in his role as a valuable member of the group. With the years, as his maturity increased, much of Ruvi’s social awkwardness was left behind, but not completely. He was rigid, uncomprehending that not every comment needed a retort, that not every fight was sinister, and that boys tend to joke and tease each other in a bantering, socially acceptable way. But he was sensitive, this delicate boy of mine: tough and macho on the outside; delicate as a freshly hatched chick on the inside. He was quick to become angry, and not so quick to forgive. At the same time, he was a sweetheart, always buying presents for my husband or me. I invested much time, energy and emotion into this complicated first-born of mine. As he climbed the school ladder from one grade to the next, I was his biggest fan and cheerleader. I applauded all of his limudei kodesh learning successes, and assured him that not everyone was meant to be a math wizard when he continuously stumbled in his journey with those elusive numbers. He had friends, this perplexing child of mine, yet he was still missing certain social skills that came naturally to others. Ruvi always had to have the last word in an argument, playful banter or even when reprimanded by the rebbe. He felt as if his very life was on the line if he wouldn’t save face with a final retort, zinger or backtalk. His teachers tolerated this for the most part, since otherwise he was an eager-to-please, obedient student. His classmates and peers had less tolerance, with the kings of the

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class learning early on that Ruvi was an awesome target, who always reacted strongly. The bullying began in the third grade. I am grateful that my son was open with me, pouring out his tales of woe about the social battlefield that he faced each day in school. The ringleader, Elimelech, was ironically the son of a renowned social skills specialist. I did not believe she would be receptive to hearing about her son’s antics. I was quite sure that it was a waste of time to approach her head-on. I deployed a different tactic in its stead. “Ruvi sweetheart, when Elimelech teases and torments you, do not show him that you care,” I stressed. “As painful and hurtful as his words and comments are, don’t respond. Keep your pain inside, ignore him, and when you came home, spill out all of your suffering to me.” Ruvi looked up at me with his beautiful hazel eyes glistening: “And what will you be able to do about it, Ma?” I kneeled at his side and cupped his quivering chin in my hand, turning his gaze towards my own: “Ruvi, sweetie, when you were a little boy, I was always able to kiss away all of your boo-boos, remember?” Ruvi gave a small grin and nodded, his chin bobbing in my cupped hand. “Ruvi, as you grow older, Mommy is always there for you; that stays the same. But sometimes, mothers or other adults don’t have a clear solution. Not everything in life has a clear solution. But if you speak about your troubles to someone who loves you and cares about you, then that alone can make you feel at least halfway better. Do you understand?” Ruvi blinked, then nodded. He then pulled away, feeling awkward with all of the intense talk. And so the year continued. Some weeks passed by uneventfully, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Other weeks featured Ruvi coming home, scowling, day after day. I coached him to simply ignore; not to empower Elimelech by showing that his words hit the mark, causing emotional pain yet again. And Ruvi learned the ropes. He became a soldier of sorts, absorbing the barbs, sometimes answering back and sometimes controlling himself. He stopped talking about it and I assumed that this issue had died down, as so many childish issues tend to do over time. One afternoon, when Ruvi was in sixth grade, he came home from school acting especially irritable. He had an obnoxious


a t what price?

comment for any sibling who deigned to cross his path, and he spoke downright nastily to me. I looked Heavenward and glanced hastily at the time, desperately wondering if I could handle his horrid behavior for the next four hours, until bedtime. I sighed. Loudly. He looked at me closely and his intense, angry expression crumpled and a suspicious wetness shone in his green-brown eyes. “You have no clue what I go through every day,” he muttered under his breath. “What?” I replied, for lack of a more intelligent response. “Nothing,” he responded as he turned his back on me and started walking towards his room, shoulders slumped. And then, like a broken dam, he turned around to face me and it all came gushing and rushing out in a torrent of tears: the jeers and jibes he faced daily from tormenters. How he didn’t bother telling me about it, because he knew I would say, “Just ignore them.” How his heart got bullied, bruised and kicked, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. Alone, against a bully and his henchmen. Something snapped inside of me. All of my resolve to train this child to look the other way evaporated in a puff of smoke. I looked at Ruvi with steely determination in my eyes. I was a mother lion: a ferocious, possessive, feline mother cat. My nails were bared and I was ready for war. I devised a foolproof plan. I asked the rebbe to confirm the abuse that Ruvi dealt with by speaking to some unbiased boys in the class who were friendly with Ruvi. The rebbe was completely agreeable, so taken aback was he about the terror and abuse playing out in front of his nose that he had been totally oblivious to. Elimelech was a master actor and played the part of the angelic student in front of rebbeim, teachers and any authority figure. The plan worked like clockwork. Elimelech was dealt with accordingly, dissolving into a heap of weak nothingness. What was crucial to the success of operation “Save My Son” was that at no time whatsoever did the rebbe let on that Ruvi or his parents “snitched.” That would have been a social disaster. The rebbe played out his part cleverly, causing Elimelech to deduce that the rebbe realized the abuse on his own. With tremendous siyata d’shmaya, I feel that I literally

And then, like a broken dam, he turned around to face me and it all came gushing and rushing out in a torrent of tears. saved my child. After attempting for far too long to teach him independent survival skills, I buckled and got the rebbe involved. Baruch Hashem, it wasn’t too-little-too-late, but it easily could have been. Almost instantly, my son was transformed, participating in class more, smiling more, and enjoying life more. Our mother-son bond became enriched through this in a deep and meaningful way. That doesn’t mean that other challenges have not cropped up with Ruvi since that infamous showdown. What it does mean is that my gut and intuition have been tested and found wanting. What I deem to be the clever way is not always the right way. It had seemed like a cop-out for me to get the rebbe involved, like a pathetic puppy with its tail between its legs. But in this case, copping out was tuning in. I’m glad my radar was working that day. n 3 KISLEV 5774

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“THE GREAT

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Dr. Michael Ozner, Director of The Center for Prevention and Wellness at Baptist Health South Florida, is an iconoclastic cardiologist who is challenging mainstream medicine with a different approach to cardiovascular health «

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THE CLEAN BILL // Real People on the Quest for Health

Dr. Michael Ozner’s thesis is that there are far too many invasive cardiac interventions, such as heart bypass surgeries, stent procedures and angioplasties being performed in the United States— interventions that are not only unnecessary but dangerous. Ozner has a different approach to cardiovascular health. He is the author of three best-selling books: The Great American Heart Hoax, The Miami Mediterranean Diet, and his most recent book, Heart Attack Proof : A Six-Week Makeover for a Lifetime of Optimal Health. Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum interviewed him about the serious allegations he makes in his first book, and the implications of these charges for all of us. AMI: The title, The Great American Heart Hoax, is a powerful and stinging indictment. But my question is: of whom? Who are the hoaxers? And exactly what hoax are they perpetrating?

DR. OZNER: First of all, let me begin by saying that cardiovascular intervention, whether by scalpel or medication-based, saves lives. People who are about to have a heart attack, are in the throes of one, or who have disabling chest pain definitely require this kind of intervention. For them it makes all the sense in the world. The sooner you get the patient into the cath lab, open up an artery and employ a stent, the better. I want to make it very clear that I am not against intervention. When I was a cardiology fellow I performed one of the first angioplasties in the country, so I know their value.

Nonetheless, from the dramatic title, readers would never assume that you believe in the need for this same intervention that you just described!

Where we’ve gotten into trouble today is that the medical establishment has extrapolated these techniques into the stable population, when there is no evidence that justifies subjecting these patients to aggressive intervention.

But what is your definition of “stable” vs. “unstable”? How do you differentiate between the two?

Anyone who is on the cusp or in middle of a cardiac event is unstable. A person with a blockage or non-debilitating chest pain that doesn’t put him in immediate danger I consider stable.

What if the patient has been determined to have a 90 percent blockage, but is not currently experiencing a cardiac event? Isn’t he a time bomb ready to go off? Shouldn’t he also be rushed to the hospital for immediate surgical intervention?

In my professional opinion, no. There have been several

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studies published in prominent journals and various stent trials that clearly indicate that beyond medical intervention, there is no evidence that putting in a stent or performing a balloon angioplasty will help the stable patient with blockages live even a day longer. I remember vividly when my next-door neighbor died in the operating room while undergoing an angioplasty, and my aunt suffered a stroke during the procedure, although thankfully at that time she recovered. But these negative outcomes are very rare, aren’t they?

Yes. But they need not have happened.

I know a lot of people who have had stents or angioplasties performed, even when they haven’t been in dire danger. Doesn’t your perspective clearly go against the conventional thinking of most cardiologists?

That’s the hoax. There are approximately half a million bypass operations being performed in the United States each year, and a million stents placed in stable patients, without any evidence of benefit.

Are you intimating that it’s all being driven by a profit motive?

Well, it’s partially due to outdated thinking. In the early days, when these things first came along as options, the thinking was that if a person has a 90 percent blockage, we can bring him into the cath lab, open up the artery, and then he’ll have a zero percent chance of having a heart attack. Everyone bought into it, and from the standpoint of vascular biology it made sense: Looking at a before and after picture, what would you rather have: a 90 percent blockage, or none? The problem was that after we performed these interventions and the artery looked good, the blockage would reappear with a vengeance in the exact same area. And sometimes a patient would go into cardiac arrest right after a stent was put in.


WAREHOUSE

CLEARANCE

So what you are saying is that rather than saving patients’ lives, some of these interventions actually place them in greater danger than they were to begin with?

I like to use the analogy of a beehive. Inside their nest, the bees are going about their business and not bothering anyone, and then you take a stick and give it a whack. All of a sudden they’re swarming outside and all over you.

So from your perspective, performing cardiac interventions on stable patients is the proverbial “stirring up a hornet’s nest”?

These interventions carry many risks: a risk of perforating the heart, perforating an artery, setting off a stroke or triggering an embolism, or causing an infection at the site of the stent. Coated stents are particularly dangerous, as is the presence of metallic hardware in your chest. For unstable patients, these procedures are 100 percent justified. But surgery, in any circumstance, is like putting on a BandAid: It doesn’t fix the problem; it just covers it up for a while. When I first started doing angioplasties I thought it was a panacea. I was ecstatic, like everyone else. But it wasn’t long before I started having doubts. More and more patients were coming back for repeat procedures. It soon became obvious that angioplasties weren’t all we’d been hoping for. Some people ended up with 20 stents in their hearts! Also, patients with stents have to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives, which increases their risk of bleeding and are contraindicated with certain medications. But there’s another aspect. Our understanding of how people develop heart attacks has evolved over the years. We used to have a “plumbing theory” of heart disease, in which we likened the arteries—where sludge and fat get clogged—to pipes obstructed by all kinds of detritus, eventually blocking the flow

and resulting in a heart attack. We didn’t realize that there is more to it than that, and our cardiovascular system does not work like household plumbing. Heart disease isn’t caused by a simple build-up of cholesterol inside the blood vessel. The LDL cholesterol enters the artery wall and becomes oxidized, kicking off an inflammatory response that results in the formation of atheromatous plaques. These plaques can grow in size over time, in which case collateral vessels develop to compensate for the diminished blood flow. The real danger is that the plaques, regardless of size, may rupture and cause blood clots that can suddenly block the flow of blood through the artery, resulting in a heart attack or sudden cardiac death. Unfortunately, many doctors are still treating arteries as if they were pipes. If it were as simple as that, then these interventions would work. But the only solution for heart disease is to work to prevent existing plaques from rupturing, and prevent new ones from forming in the first place. Sorry to sound like a “dog with a bone,” but I’d like to get to the “heart” of your book’s title. If the current treatment protocol is the result of outmoded thinking, that doesn’t sound as ominous as your title would suggest. So again, where’s the hoax?

When bypass surgery was first developed, an entire industry was born. Surgical programs mushroomed, fellowship programs proliferated, operating rooms were built, and new hospitals and cardiac centers were constructed. Interventional cardiology became its own specialty, mass-producing doctors specially trained to perform the lucrative procedure. Many hospitals discovered that the fastest way to financial security—prosperity even—was to expand their menu of cardiac services. Soon every hospital in America was building “cardiac cath labs” to cash in. A feeding frenzy began. The big academic

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THE CLEAN BILL // Real People on the Quest for Health

institutions like the Cleveland Clinic were doing it properly, but smaller ones jumped in too. If you were a hospital administrator and didn’t have cardiac services, you’d have a hard time surviving if the hospital across the street did. Cardiac care centers are cash cows. It’s been estimated that at least $60 billion per year is spent on interventional cardiac medicine.

the stent is a “fix” and he can just return to his old lifestyle is making a mistake. The good news is that because heart disease is a metabolic disorder its underlying causes—cholesterol levels, free radical production and inflammation—are all, to a certain degree, within our control. No one has to die prematurely from heart disease. We already have the knowledge to prevent and reverse the leading killer in America—without surgery. Our bodies are affected not only by our genes, but by how we choose to live.

Are you suggesting that it’s all about money? Surely the majority of cardiologists are idealistic and sincere practitioners who only want to save lives.

There’s an additional factor: The current medical/legal climate may be playing a role. The threat of malpractice looms over virtually every decision physicians make these days, and I certainly wouldn’t be the first to suggest that the constant fear of being sued and the exorbitant cost of malpractice insurance is exerting undue influence on the practice of medicine in America. Some doctors respond by leaving the field of medicine altogether. Others take an overly aggressive approach to virtually every case. It’s also quite possible that some cling to the notion that doing something active, such as an invasive procedure, is likely to be perceived as more proactive than simply sending a patient home with recommendations for medical therapy and lifestyle changes. Some doctors may simply feel they will be in a more legally defensible position should something go wrong if they can say, “But I performed state-of-the-art surgery to bypass the blockage. What more could I have done?” Similarly, a cowboy mentality may come into play. There’s a certain fondness in America for taking action, any action, when confronted with a problem—never mind that the action may be wrong. If all that interventional medicine worked, the cost would be worthwhile. The trouble is, it doesn’t. So what does work?

Preventing heart disease by reversing the process that leads to heart attacks has always made more sense to me than attempting to patch up an artery with a stent or bypass. Hundreds of clinical trials have consistently shown that a preventive approach trumps an interventional one. It’s also much less risky and cost-effective. But we don’t reward our doctors for offering patients nutritional counseling; we reward them for doing procedures. When you wheel a patient out after a stent procedure, unless he fixes the problems that got him there in the first place and reverses the process, he’ll be back. Anyone who assumes that

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What lifestyle and nutritional approaches do you recommend?

In my most recent book, Heart Attack Proof, I outline a program that is simple and easy to follow. I believe that the healthiest diet is a Mediterranean one [Dr. Ozner’s second book is called The Miami Mediterranean Diet]. They should also get plenty of exercise, avoid chronic stress and make other important lifestyle changes. Studies have repeatedly shown that this approach works. One study by Harvard researchers published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30 to 33 percent. The “Lifestyle Heart Trial” conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish found a 91 percent reduction in the frequency of chest pain through lifestyle changes alone. Dean Ornish was one of the first pioneers to champion nutrition and lifestyle changes to reverse heart disease, wasn’t he? I remember when a neighbor who had suffered a major heart attack flew to San Francisco to enroll in his on-site program for three months and returned with scans and X-rays testifying that his heart had been rejuvenated. He lived a long and healthy life. His program has also been integrated into various hospitals elsewhere, if I’m not mistaken.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Dean Ornish. What you are saying is true, but he advocated an “all-or-nothing” approach that I feel did a disservice to his patients. He was totally against surgery or drugs, regardless of a patient’s condition. My philosophy is to try lifestyle intervention first, but if it doesn’t get you where you want to go, then medication should be the next recourse. Make no mistake: I have been in the forefront of those saying that people are being overmedicated, and that drugs should never be used instead of lifestyle changes but only in addition to them. But in some cases medications, if used properly, are of tremendous benefit.


Are there any other aspects of your approach that differ widely from the mainstream cardiac community?

Although ideally the optimal way to get vitamins, minerals and nutrients is through diet, I do prescribe a few supplements as a kind of “insurance policy” against nutritional gaps. One vitamin that has received a lot of interest is Vitamin D. A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that men with a low level of Vitamin D had an elevated risk of heart attack. Vitamin D is known to affect inflammation, vascular calcification and blood pressure. I also recommend taking a multivitamin; fish oil and potassium, which is an essential mineral critical for optimal heart health; magnesium, which lowers blood pressure and helps stabilize heart rhythm; CoQ10, which alleviates muscle pain in patients taking statins; and lowdose aspirin, which works by thinning the blood. I must emphasize to your readers that they must never take these supplements on their own, but only on the recommendation of their doctors. Elevated potassium, for example, can be just as dangerous as low, leading to kidney impairment. Your doctor can determine your potassium level and kidney function with a blood test.

Is there anything else you do in your preventative practice that is being omitted elsewhere and that we should encourage our doctors to replicate?

Blood tests! We’ve been doing the wrong ones and overlooking the right ones! For example, we’ve been measuring cholesterol, but cholesterol has to flow through blood via particles, so we should be measuring the particles rather than the cholesterol itself. We should also be routinely performing blood tests that measure inflammation as well as vitamin deficiencies, particularly Vitamin D. In addition to the advanced lipid test, particle number test and tests for inflammatory markers, your doctor should also check your homocysteine level, which, if elevated, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots. While B vitamins, specifically folic acid, B6 and B12, have been shown to lower homocysteine levels, taking them in pill form has not been proven to lessen the risk of cardiovascular events. A healthy diet containing rich sources of the necessary B vitamins (such as fruits, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fortified cereals) is a better approach. And as I mentioned earlier, because we’ve discovered how vital omega-3 fatty acids are, emerging risk factors such as the omega-3 index have been developed and may be worth testing for.

Hippocrates once famously said, “Let food be thy medicine.” Do you agree?

What you eat is the single most important factor in your health. “I’m on Lipitor so I can eat whatever I want,” a patient once told me after his discharge from the hospital following heart bypass surgery. Medication, like cardiac interventions, can and should never be a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. SmartDesign

I also differ with Dr. Ornish in that he advocated a radical vegan diet similar to the macrobiotic one, which doesn’t provide the essential fats our bodies require, which we get from fish. After President Clinton had his cardiac event he adopted Dr. Ornish’s diet, but he has now transitioned to the Mediterranean diet because marine sources of omega-3 are crucial and cannot be supplanted by walnuts or flaxseed, which are not enough. In the Physicians Health Study, it was shown that individuals who consumed at least one fish meal per week reduced their risk of sudden cardiac death by 52 percent.

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It would only be fair and balanced journalism to find an alternative, more conservative voice to provide a rebuttal. So for an honest counterperspective, I sought out one of the biggest names in cardiac medicine today.

COUNTERPERSPECTIVE readers, we thought we’d get a “second opinion” for the sake of integrity. Can I assume that you disagree with this claim?

On the contrary, I totally agree with it! This is American medicine at its worst. There has certainly been a lot of concern about this issue; there have even been a number of cases in which the Justice Department became involved. In stable patients with no immediate heart emergencies, the stent does not prolong life. It doesn’t prevent heart attacks, and it’s hard to make a patient who has no symptoms feel better.

Dr. Steve E. Nissen, Chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2007 by Time Magazine. Below is his own shocking statement:

AMI: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us

DR. NISSEN: My pleasure.

Dr. Nissen, we are currently working on an article charging that cardiac interventions like angioplasties and stent procedures are unnecessary in stable patients, and are being recklessly performed in this country. Since this is a shocking allegation and we do not want to convey incorrect or sensationalized information to our

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What are the underlying causes of the proliferation of cardiac procedures in stable patients?

One of the problems of American medicine is that we have perverse incentives for surgical procedures: Physicians are involved in fee-for-service situations. Quite simply, doctors make more money if they perform more procedures. If you have a self-interest in doing a procedure, it’s hard not to do them. To quote Mark Twain, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That’s what is happening here.

How can trusting patients be sure that their doctors’ insistence on cardiac procedures is sincere?

When physicians recommend stents for

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stable patients, they should always seek a second opinion. Second opinions are very necessary. And if you tell your doctor that you are going to get another opinion and he gets angry or insulted, you should immediately find another doctor. I had a neighbor who died during an angioplasty. How common is that?

Very rare. Fortunately, the mortality rate is very low. Nonetheless, you never want a procedure you don’t need because things can go wrong and there may be consequences. How do you make that call?

If the patient is in immediate danger and the procedure is absolutely necessary, then obviously you have to go ahead. It there’s a death during or after the procedure, the doctor cannot be held responsible. But if the procedure is questionable and perhaps shouldn’t have been done in the first place, then the doctor should be held responsible. What’s your position on preventive medicine in cardiac cases?

All decent doctors have to believe in preventive medicine. Lifestyle changes are very important, and we need to treat patients with those therapies where there is evidence of good benefit. Thanks so much for enlighten-ing us.


Stent Abuse Lawsuits Is American medicine bingeing on stent implantation? Numerous probes launched in 2006 by the US Department of Justice, to determine whether interventional cardiology programs were billing public health systems for needless stents, have uncovered a series of shocking abuses by hospitals in five states, resulting in lawsuits being brought against the cardiac centers and/or cardiologists, and in a few instances, the conviction and imprisonment of the cardiologists themselves. According to thousands of pages of court documents and regulatory filings—brought to the public’s attention by prominent cardiologists, whistleblowers and journalists from The New York Times and Bloomberg News—approximately half of the 700,000 stent procedures performed annually in the US on elective surgery patients in stable condition are unnecessary, with particular overuse concentrated in Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio. Bloomberg News recently reported that five hospitals “have reached settlements with the Justice Department over allegations that they paid illegal kickbacks to doctors for patient referrals to their cath labs. St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland paid the government $22 million without admitting liability.” One of the physicians to whom the facility paid kickbacks, Dr. Mark Midei of Baltimore, had his license revoked in 2011, when “The Maryland Board of Physicians found that he had falsified records to justify unwarranted stents.” “Stents are lifesaving when patients are in midst of a heart attack,” says Dr. Chet Rihal, an interventional cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “They allow immediate and sustained blood flow that help a patient recover. But for those who aren’t suffering a heart attack, the benefits are less clear. While stents may be used in patients with clear chest pain, there’s no evidence that they prevent future heart attacks.” Bloomberg News also reported that over the last decade, seven million Americans have undergone procedures to open their arteries, at a cost of over $110 billion. Doctors have a vested interest in protecting these procedures from Department of

Justice probes, charges Dr. North Hadler, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, because “the interventional cardiology industry has a cash flow comparable to the GNP of many countries and doesn’t want to lose it.” William Hsiao, a health care economist at Harvard University told Bloomberg News that “the flood of money poured into cardiac stents can certainly lead to ‘corrupted practices.’” Former President George W. Bush’s stent surgery this past August revived the national debate on stenting, a debate that has centered on both the cost (running an average of $25,000 to as high as $50,000 at some hospitals) and its possible side effects, which can include excessive bleeding, blood clots, blockages from coronary scar tissue and in a very few rare cases, death. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cardiac stents were implicated in 773 deaths in 2012—certainly a negligible mortality rate compared to the sheer volume of procedures being performed, since every surgery, even the most benign, entails risk. However, this represented a 71 percent rise over the number of cardiac stent deaths reported to the same agency in 2008. So while negative outcomes may be minuscule in the context of national data, when someone you love has died as a result of a botched or unnecessary procedure, statistics fade in importance. Florida resident Gary Crabtree won $240,000 in 2011 from the settlement of a lawsuit against the cardiologist for his deceased 64-year-old wife, after one of her arteries was torn in a stent procedure. After her death, he took her files to a second cardiologist who reviewed the case and told him that the stent was unnecessary in the first case. “If the stent was something she really needed, I could have handled it,” Crabtree said. “But it was a total loss of life that didn’t need to happen.” Bruce Peterson had just retired after 24 years as a mail carrier when he made an appointment to consult with a Texas cardiologist named Samuel DeMaio, due to the chest pain he was experiencing. Over the course of the next eight months, DeMaio placed 21 coronary stents in Peterson’s chest, with five of the metal mesh tubes in a single artery. In a complaint handed down by the Texas Medical Board, DeMaio’s implantation of the stents

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was characterized as “unnecessary,” ultimately “weakening Peterson’s heart and exposing him to complications (clots and blockages) that led to his death.” His widow, Shirlee Peterson, told Bloomberg News, “Too many stents can kill you.” In late 2005, nurse Evan Gourley was assisting vascular surgeon Dr. Najam Azmat in a stent procedure on patient Judi Gary when he observed blood leaking from her groin, as evidenced by an X-ray monitor positioned near the patient’s side. “I think the guide wire is in the wrong place,” he told the doctor, who ignored his warning. Azmat subsequently tore Gary’s aorta, and Gourley left the operating room in disgust, later reporting the case to administrators at Satilla Regional Medical Center in Waycross, Georgia. “I told them he’s eventually going to kill someone if they let him continue working,” Gourley told reporters. But his admonitions went unheeded, and eventually patient Ruth Minter paid the price. In January 2006, Azmat punctured the wall of her right kidney during a stent procedure. She died 17 days later of complications from heavy blood loss, according to a federal lawsuit. “The procedure was not medically indicated,” concluded a Justice Department report, and Satilla Regional Medical Center eventually paid $840,000 to resolve the complaint. The Justice Department also charged that Azmat was neither qualified nor credentialed to perform the procedures. Mehmood Patel, a Louisiana cardiologist who reportedly made $16 million over a three-year period, is currently serving a ten-year sentence in federal prison on 51 counts of implanting unnecessary stents. Jashu Patel (no relation), a cardiologist in Jackson, Michigan, was likewise charged by the Justice Department for implanting needless stents in patients, one of whom died. Julie Kovach, who worked with the cardiologist and

brought the suit to the government’s attention, said that “the unnamed woman showed no symptoms of reduced cardiac blood supply. A stress test showed normal blood flow, and notes in her file said she didn’t want interventions. “It was appalling,” Kovach later told reporters. “Patel coerced her into getting a stent she didn’t need, which killed her.” Although the hospital, Allegiance Health, agree to pay the government $4 billion in penalties, Patel still continues to practice at the hospital. Both he and the hospital vehemently deny the allegations and said they settled the claims “to avoid lengthy litigation.” Thankfully, most of Ami’s readers live in areas where cardiac services are excellent, medical facilities are state-ofthe-art, and the physicians who preside at these centers have tremendous skills and integrity. In addition, rebbeim, askanim and frum medical referral services ensure that we receive the highest quality care from sincere and ethical practitioners. Many of the abuses (although not all) occurred in facilities that were substandard, unsophisticated and outside major urban areas. Nonetheless, if you are not in the middle of a “cardiac event” and your doctor recommends a procedure, we strongly urge you to get a second opinion, especially in consideration of the following news item: This past April, the University of Pennsylvania Health Care system in Philadelphia, which has consistently received top grades and is ranked “one of the nation’s best” by U.S. News & World Report, mailed out 700 letters to former patients advising them that the stents they received “may have been ‘unnecessary.’” If such a stellar institution in a major Northeastern city can admit its culpability (compelled by Department of Justice prods) in stent overuse, well, that’s just a little too close to home— and way too close for comfort.


Rebuttal Statements from Cardiology Associations

To ensure the integrity of the previous interviews, Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum personally reached out to John G. Harold, president of the American College of Cardiology, and Dr. Ted A. Bass, president of the Society for Cardio-vascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) for a response to Dr. Nissen’s views. Here are their statements: Statement from American College of Cardiology (ACC) President John G. Harold, MD, MACC:

The ACC agrees with Dr. Nissen, and our guidelines reflect this, that stents are not the first option for stable patients. Most physicians want to do the right thing for their patients. The American College of Cardiology provides tools, including guidelines and appropriate use criteria, to help them make complex decisions together with their patients. Our data registries, which make up the National Cardiovascular Data Registry, also provide feedback to help identify outliers and support decision-support tools. We do have concerns that the payment system creates misaligned incentives that promote overuse in many areas of medicine. The bottom line is most doctors want to do the right thing for their patients no matter how they are paid. Extreme outliers who put patients at risk through overuse for personal gain should face the consequences of their actions.

Still, we should make sure we do not paint a large group of doctors with the same broad brush because of the actions of a few. This breeds mistrust that would keep people from getting appropriate care from caring physicians. Patients who have concerns should have open and honest conversations with their physicians. This is why we have participated in the Choosing Wisely program (www.choosingwisely. org), which promotes communication between patients and physicians. Dr. Ted A. Bass, MD, President of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI)

With respect, your opening question to Dr. Nissen “charging” recklessness and negligence seems a bit reckless itself. You’re using an awfully broad brush to portray a complex, nuanced subject—one that readers take to heart, literally and figuratively. You might exercise a bit more caution with such a weighty topic. Many patients with stable heart disease have symptoms, and in some cases these 3 KISLEV 5774

symptoms can be severe—affecting their ability to work and participate in activities they enjoy, including exercise, which helps to manage their heart disease risk factors. These symptoms can greatly affect quality of life and may require them to limit their activities and to take many medications, which can cause side effects that some patients cannot or will not tolerate. The decision to implant a stent is influenced by a scientifically rigorous set of practice standards and guidelines. Studies have shown that, in appropriate stable patients, stents can dramatically improve quality of life, enabling them to return to work and the lifestyle they enjoy. It is appropriate to consider stents for stable heart disease patients who have symptoms that they wish to address, have tried medications and not received sufficient relief, and have significant blockages in their heart arteries. It is essential that every patient have a relationship with his doctor that encourages open communication about the patient’s choices and expectations. Patients, their families and healthcare providers working together to manage each patient’s heart condition is American medicine at its best. Getting a second opinion is recommended for any patient who does |

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THE CLEAN BILL // Real People on the Quest for Health

Cure for the Common Cold

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not feel his or her questions are being fully addressed. Interventional cardiologists use practice guidelines, appropriate use criteria and many other tools developed by SCAI and other professional medical societies to support the delivery of high-quality, patient-centered care for each patient, depending on his or her unique history, symptoms, condition (including the location and severity of artery blockages), expectations for quality of life and therapeutic preferences. In all of the coverage of this issue, it’s often overlooked that heart doctors are subject to checks and balances like anyone else: peer review panels, insurers (including the federal government), hospitals, clinics and referring doctors. A specialist who routinely practices outside professional norms stands out and is held accountable. No one, and certainly not SCAI, in any way defends physicians or condones practice that puts patients at risk through fraud or overuse of medical technology for personal gain. They should face the consequences of their actions, and some have. Most physicians work hard to make the right decisions with their patients and believe patient well-being comes first and must be at the center of treatment decisions. We at SCAI are proud of the many dedicated professionals in our field who work hard to save lives and do the right thing for their patients. n To submit your story for this column or to have your story featured here, please contact us at submissions@amimagazine.org.

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It’s one of the most familiar diseases around, but the idea of a cure for it is used as a joke. Researchers revealed last week that there is a reason no cures for the common cold have yet emerged. And their research may lead to one. The scientists, led by UW-Madison biochemistry Professor Ann Palmenberg, looked at the third and most mysterious type of cold virus, rhinovirus C. That variant had entirely escaped notice until 2006, when advanced genetic testing found that there was something besides rhinovirus A and B lurking out there. But even after its discovery, the C strain proved to be difficult to analyze, partially because it is difficult to culture. The new research used a variety of methods to produce a 3D map of the virus’ protein shell. And what they found was that rhinovirus C has traits that make it immune to the medicines developed to combat the two other cold strains. Now scientists can use this new data to try to plug the $40 billion hole that the common cold creates in just the US economy every year, by taking a crack at the third and most sneaky member of the cold family.

THE ANTI-DEPRESSION ROCKET New tests show possible quick route One of the long-standing problems with treating depression is that the drugs involved take a relatively long time to take effect. Medications like Prozac and Zoloft can take two weeks or more to show results, which can be a devastatingly long wait for someone suffering from that disease, especially because some drugs turn out to not be effective at all in certain patients. Until now, quick-acting drugs have had too many side effects to be safe. But a new study of drugs that—like Prozac and Zoloft—affect levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin but do so very narrowly, only targeting serotonin 2C receptors, has shown that they can reduce depression-like symptoms in mice within five days. The researchers believe that these drugs are as safe as the antidepressants on the market already. And that speed may soon mean quicker results for patients who are feeling clinically blue.

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Follow Chana Rose, a Brooklyn-based shadchante with 26 years of experience, as she takes a shidduch from idea to engagement. It isn’t as easy as it looks to get a couple to the chuppah, but for Chana it’s all in a day’s work...

By Chana Rose

LAST WEEK: CHANA SETS UP SHOSHANA KLEIN AND AVRUMI STEINBERG, SEEMINGLY A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN. THE SHIDDUCH IS PROGRESSING AND THEY ARE ON THE VERGE OF ENGAGEMENT, UNTIL SHOSHANA SUDDENLY HAS RESERVATIONS ABOUT AVRUMI’S SHORT-HEIGHT GENES. WILL THE RAV ADVISE HER TO END THE SHIDDUCH?

shidduch saga A “Short” Story

Making this shidduch is turning out to be quite a “tall order”

PART II You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard the news: The shidduch between Shoshana Klein and Avrumi Steinberg was officially over. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when Mrs. Klein called to inform me of their decision. The Kleins had taken my advice and called their rav, a very prominent and well-regarded one, I might add. He listened as Shoshana described how wonderful she thought Avrumi was, how their dates had gone so well, and how she felt that there was a real chemistry between them. But when Shoshana mentioned her sudden reservations about Avrumi’s height, and how she was worried about her future children’s gene pool, the rav surprised us all by telling her to call the shidduch off. If I was disappointed that the shidduch

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was finished, the Steinbergs were devastated. It wasn’t easy for me, as the shadchan, to be the bearer of bad news, especially in such a situation, where the dissolution of the shidduch seemed to come out of left field (at least from their

If I was disappointed that the shidduch was finished, the Steinbergs were devastated. 3 KISLEV 5774

perspective). Mrs. Steinberg accepted the news graciously, but confided in me that she was shocked that this shidduch wasn’t ending in an engagement. In fact, she had already made an appointment with a jeweler to pick out a kallah bracelet. Shoshana really was quite the catch, Mrs. Steinberg lamented. “Yes,” I agreed, yet added to reassure her, “but so is Avrumi. I know we’ll find him his bashert soon.” I really meant what I said about her son, but I was even more impressed with him after the phone call I received from Mrs. Weissman a few days later. Mrs. Weissman’s oldest son, Naftali, who was a good friend of Avrumi Steinberg, had asked her to call me and redt him to none other than—Shoshana Klein! Apparently, Avrumi Steinberg was so impressed by Shoshana’s charming, bubbly personality that he wanted her to meet his friend. I


#thischanukah was amazed: Avrumi had certainly been disappointed when Shoshana called off the shidduch, but that didn’t stop him from trying to help her—and Naftali. He really believed that the two of them would be a good match. In truth, Avrumi Steinberg had done a very good job of convincing Naftali that Shoshana was the right one for him. Mrs. Weissman didn’t even feel the need to investigate any further about Shoshana. She only asked me for some basic details about the Klein family. Apparently, Naftali was so insistent about this shidduch that Mrs. Weissman gave me a yes on the spot and asked me to go right ahead and suggest the shidduch to the girl’s side. I hung up the phone and immediately called Mrs. Klein to tell her about this excellent young man who wanted to meet her daughter. Redting a shidduch that was already vetted on one side is always a pleasure! Mrs. Klein was flattered by the positive impression her daughter had made and was interested in hearing more about Naftali. Naftali Weissman, I told her, was definitely a good match for her Shoshana, at least on paper. He was a solid learner with good middos, and was an easygoing, confident young man from a great family. And not only was he a good-looking boy, I reassured her—given Shoshana’s most recent experience—this bachur was five-foot-eleven. I gave her some more relevant details and references and wished her a good night. Two days later I had an enthusiastic yes from the Kleins, and set about arranging a first date right away. The next morning I was happy to hear that both Naftali and Shoshana had enjoyed themselves on the date and wanted to proceed with a second meeting. Could this match be bashert after all? Humming to myself, I called Mrs. Klein to set up a time for the next date and then dialed Mrs. Weissman’s number, intending to inform her that Shoshana was available the day after tomorrow. After a few minutes of chit-chat we got down to business. Mrs. Weissman told me that she was excited about how the shidduch was progressing. In fact, her son had never had such a positive first date experience before. She was concerned about only one thing. “I have only one reservation,” she confided. There was a slight pause, during which I held my breath. “Everything about this shidduch sounds perfect, but I wanted to ask you a question. Tell me, Mrs. Rose: Exactly how tall is this girl?” n * All names changed to protect privacy 

To be continued…

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shidduchresources

COMPILED BY ESTHER GARTENHAUS

The sheer volume of emails, letters, phone calls and faxes we receive, regarding the shidduch crisis, is eyeopening. This column is our contribution to help address this crisis. A more complete list appears on our website: www.amimagazine.org. This is a joint communal effort, so we need to hear from you! Shadchanim and activists: Contact Esther Gartenhaus at matchmaker@amimagazine.org to list your appropriate services, shidduch meetings and pertinent activities!

General Shidduchim

Mrs. Sora Cohen 718.755.4836 / aryehsora@aol.com Mrs. Lisa Elefant 718.256.7525 / LisaElefant@yahoo.com Mrs. Ethel Halpert 718.853.4083 / Motzaei Shabbos Mrs. Rayzel Harrar 718.376.8547 Mrs. Hadassah Hoffner 718.309.5700 Mrs. Chana Rivka Jacobs 718.256.7525 at Binyan Adei Ad The Kesher Connection of Boro Park 718.576.1094 support@kesherconnection.com. Mrs. Pearl Klepfish 718.338.8106 Rebbetzin Elisheva Koenig718.258.8475 / 718.377.2631 / elishevakoenig@gmail.com Mrs. Dina Lapp 917.470.4840 / diny613@gmail.com lchaimshidduch.com Mrs. Tova Liebb 732.367.7252 / tliebb@yahoo.com Mrs. Libby Lieberman Mazal.brocha@gmail.com Mrs. Devorah Meyer 718.213.0761 / M, T, W 8–10:30 p.m. Mrs. Shaindy Mitnick 347.322.0001 / afternoons and evenings / shaindymitnick@gmail.com Mrs. Chava Most Fax: 732.377.5484 / sensitiveshidduchim@gmail.com / specializes in shidduchim for individuals with physical, medical, fertility and genetic conditions Rabbi Ahron Mueller 848.299.2598 National Council of Young Israel Shidduch Program Department 212.929.1525, ext. 150 / jsteinig@youngisrael.org Mr. Motti Neuhaus mottineuhaus@yahoo.com Mrs. Simchas Olam rivkalittman@yahoo.com Mrs. Adina Reich adinareich@gmail.com Resumé Center ifoundashidduch@gmail.com Mrs. Chana Rose chanarose36@verizon.net Mrs. Rochel Rubanowitz 212.543.2723 Mrs. Joy Scher proudbubby1@aol.com Mrs. Sara Schwarcz 718.854.8722 / 917.446.3213 Mrs. Baila Sebrow 516.239.0564 / bsebrow@aol.com Mrs. Chaya Segal 718.854.6315 / evenings / specializes in older singles Mrs. Blimmie Stamm 732.363.1554 Mrs. Malka Sussman 416.787.5147

Mrs. Yehudis Abir 02.586.3310 / evening hours / judyabir@gmail.com Mrs. Shulamit Goldberger 02.561.1019 V’hareinu B’vinunei (Yiddish-speaking organization) Shidduch for zivug sheini 011.972.54.849.9440 |

AMI•LIVING

Mental Health/Emotional Issues Shoshana Goldman 718.983.9187 Temima Gross 410.358.7017 / temiragross@gmail.com

Ohel’s Simcha Program / Sarah Kahan 718.686.3262 sarah_kahan@ohelfamily.org fcbrecher@gmail.com

Public Announcements Thanks to those women who have called in to volunteer assistance with shidduch calls! More are needed! If you are articulate and capable, please call in: 347.482.8429. Plenty of shadchanim…yet never enough! Join as a volunteer shadchan. Call Kesher Connection at 718.576.1094. Resource for previously married men and women. Also, singles willing to marry previously married men and women, please contact Mrs. B. Stein: belle960@gmail.com Seeking girls for quality, frum, working (non-degreed) chasidishe boys! 845.425.7520 Shadchanus Services—Hire by the hour. Hire your own private shadchan to network for you! Shadchanim and interested parties, please contact Ruchie at 718.438.2834 for more details.

Jaffe at 718.853.8691. Looking for single girls/women and young men of all ages, with controlled medical issues (i.e., on meds). Many special compatible young men available! Confidential! Please call Mrs. R. Schwartz: 718.419.7855. Shidduchim Workshops in Brooklyn, Lakewood or your town! Premarital/shidduch hadrachah workshops with Mrs. Esther Gartenhaus for post highschool girls/young women! Call to schedule your workshop and for private appointments: 347.482.8429 On-the-ball single girls are needed to volunteer time navigating/matching resumes. Please call 347.482.8429. Looking for computer-savvy girls/women for assessment and categorization of shidduch resumes. Email ifoundashidduch@gmail.com

Shidduch meetings in Kensington. For details, call Mrs. Edie

Israel

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We welcome your letters, comments and shidduch questions, as well as helpful ideas, advice and tips on...shidduchim! Contact us at matchmaker@amimagazine.org or via phone (718.534.8800) or fax (718.484.7731).


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CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE LAST WEEK: SHULY FEELS OUTMANEUVERED WHEN SHRAGA BUYS MOSHE YONAH A BICYCLE

Shraga Makes an Offer

W

hen I originally set up the meeting at Rabbi Apelbaum’s, I fully intended to give Shuli an ultimatum: Get off the Internet and pay attention to the kids, or else we’re going to court. I wanted a third party as a reliable witness because whenever Shuli and I got together the sparks tended to fly. Also, I was afraid she would twist my words around in her weird Shuli way, and I wanted someone else to hear them so I’d know I wasn’t the crazy one. But from the moment I woke up that morning, all I could think about was my conversation with Moshe Yonah. Ever since the accident I’d been seeing things differently, as if I was finally looking into a normal mirror after years of the distorted, fun-house variety. Moshe Yonah was really scared. It’s a hard thing for a child to be unable to rely on his mother, to trust her and

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believe she will take care of him. Shuli was always an excellent mother, and now she was letting it all go down the tubes just because she was lonely and frustrated. So when she walked into Rabbi Apelbaum’s office, I found myself blurting out a bunch of things I hadn’t even known I’d felt. “Shuli,” I begged her, “we have to get back together.” She rolled her eyes. “We’ve been through this before, Shraga. You dragged me all the way here just to pull me through the mud again?” She stood up to leave but I pleaded with her to sit down and hear me out. Rabbi Apelbaum’s eyes were wide with surprise. This was not the script we’d devised for this meeting. “It’s not about us. It’s about the kids.” “What about them?” she asked. “I’ve been hearing a little about what’s going on in the house…” Her eyes flashed. “From Moshe 3 KISLEV 5774

Yonah, right? I knew something was wrong when he came home that afternoon.” “He’s scared and worried about you. If we got back together it would make the children feel more secure.” “That’s why you want to come back?” she asked. I was surprised to see I’d hurt her feelings, but I knew I had to be honest. “The children need both of us. Why should they pay the price for our stubbornness? They need us to be together, to work on building our family. Shuli, we’ve got to do it for their sake.” “So we should just get married again? Would we live in the fancy house you bought for Sara Leah?” “Yes, we should get married, but it will have to be different.” “What do you mean?” “We would have to be like two new people who had never been married to each other before. Otherwise, we’d just


fall back into the same bad habits and make the same mistakes all over again.” “So what would I have to do?” “We. What we would have to do is commit to intensive couple’s therapy for at least two years,” I said, “in addition to individual counseling for both of us. Family therapy too, if the kids need it. And we talk every decision over with the rav.” I looked over at Rabbi Apelbaum to make sure I was on the right track. Almost imperceptibly, he nodded. I congratulated myself on my good idea to do this in his office, even though it wasn’t what I’d planned. My words were burbling up from somewhere deep inside. It was time to act like the husband and father I wanted to be, and believed I could become. “And of course, no Internet, no crazy spending and no lies.” “Didn’t I just hear you say we’re going to be like two new people? It sounds like you don’t believe I can change.” “I’m sorry, but these points are nonnegotiable. I’ll admit it will be hard to trust you again, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith in you. I do. I have faith that you can become the kind of mother you used to be, and that our marriage can be restarted. But it’s not going to happen overnight. I think we had two problems: We fell into bad habits, and we couldn’t communicate with each other. It was my fault that I didn’t tell you I was having money problems. If I had, we could have worked out a plan and I would have never sold the house. And you never told me directly that you wanted a higher standard of living. If I had really understood that, again, just the fact that

we were talking honestly to each other would have helped, even if I couldn’t afford to buy you everything you wanted. Instead, you became resentful and went to your father. Everything could have been avoided if we had known how to communicate. But unfortunately, they don’t teach that in yeshivah.” “They probably should,” Rabbi Apelbaum interjected. He was following the proceedings with rapt attention. “So what do you think, Shuli? Do you think we can do it? For the

I get lost and give up. I knew I had to hold my ground. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. The kids need us, Shuli. Don’t you care enough about them to try to make this work? I believe that despite everything we’ve put each other through, there’s still a burning ember of hope. It’s not all business. You are the wife of my youth, the mother of my children.” She rolled her eyes at that, but I didn’t care. “No matter what happens in our lives, we’ll always be a little bit married. So let’s do it. Let’s get back together and build on what we

I CONGRATULATED MYSELF ON MY GOOD IDEA TO DO THIS IN HIS OFFICE, EVEN THOUGH IT WASN’T WHAT I’D PLANNED. children’s sake?” Shuli sat quietly for a minute looking down at her nails, and I suddenly got a very bad feeling, like the barometric pressure dropping just before a thunderstorm. “Very interesting proposition, Shraga. Basically, you’re asking me to enter into an unloving, untrusting, childraising business partnership with me doing all of the changing and giving and contorting myself to fit your expectation of what a good wife and mother should be. If I were stupid enough to agree to that, what’s in it for me? What do I get out of it?” This was exactly why I wanted Rabbi Apelbaum as a witness. Shuli has a way of twisting things around, after which

had, but as more mature, experienced people. Don’t you want a life?” “I have a life,” she said defensively, but I could tell I was wearing her down. “We’ll sort it all out. We’ll leave nothing to chance. We’re going to sound like a couple of robots in the beginning, but we’ll get used to it. We’ll figure it out, and the kids will learn from us. Don’t tell me it’s been easy for you. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about getting remarried almost from the moment we walked out of the beis din. The divorce was a mistake; let’s fix it.” I finished pleading my case to Shuli. The ball is in her park.  

To be continued...

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BY DINA NEUMAN

Chapter Thirty-One

“L

et me make sure that I have this straight. Your father-inlaw loved his daughter—your wife—and therefore he didn’t like you? And furthermore, he wouldn’t have liked anyone that she would have married?” Richard Thomas spoke mockingly, but Shmuel saw the look on his face. The look said, “Oops.” The look said that the lawyer had suddenly and abruptly lost control of the flow of conversation with that last, ill-thought question. The bare emotion was only seen for a second before Thomas’s smooth, bland mask was back in place, but it was long enough for Shmuel to know that he had the upper hand, at least for the moment. And he had to make the moment count while he had everyone’s attention. The silence was so very complete that all Shmuel could hear was his own pulse in his ears. Before he had gone up to the witness stand, he had just wanted this court case to be over, one way or another. It had so consumed his wife from the outside in, leaving her hollow-cheeked and empty of all other thought—a virtual stranger. And then when he had been called up, the best that he could have hoped for was not to make things worse between the two of them. Nothing good could come of his testimony; he could only hope that nothing too bad would, either. The last thing that he had ever dreamed of happening was a moment of silence

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like this, the court waiting for him to make the next move and—on the heels of Richard Thomas’ question, which he now answered—a sudden epiphany. “Exactly right. Your honor, if I may have a few minutes to answer the counsel’s question in full?” The judge nodded. Richard Thomas took a step back. Marvin Cohen leaned forward, his hands clasped before him eagerly. Tova sat still, expressionless. Off to the other side of the courtroom, in unknowing synchronization, Lakey sat motionless, her face a blank. Shmuel took a deep breath and began. “It’s complicated...the answer. Because people are so complicated, so beautifully and maddeningly complicated. But I will do my best to simplify it as much as I can.” Shmuel kept his back and his voice straight. Five minutes ago, he had not known any of what he was about to say, but he did now. When Richard Thomas had asked him about his relationship with his father-in-law and how it was, way back in the beginning, it had all begun to coalesce in his mind. And now, suddenly, he knew exactly why Mr. Reich had treated him the way that he had. And he knew, just as suddenly, two things. He knew it wasn’t his fault. And he also knew that it was terribly important, not just for the court case but 3 KISLEV 5774

for his marriage. And while he was not a natural speaker—preferring the back of the room, observing people, to the front of the room, being observed—he spoke slowly and clearly—sure suddenly about every single word that he was about to say. “I don’t think he meant to,” Shmuel said. “He didn’t mean to hold on to her. But he did. When his wife had died so suddenly, well-meaning friends told him to remarry. I mean, they must have. He was young, he had a whole life ahead of him, and he had two little girls who needed a mother in their lives. But he didn’t remarry. My father-in-law was a person who gave of himself 100 percent. This made him extremely dependable and honest to a fault, but also rather rigid and unyielding. No compromises, no changes. He had been married to his wife, and now she was gone. There would be—could be—no one to replace her.” Shmuel remembered the picture of the laughing, clear-faced woman with Tova and Lakey’s blue eyes, and how many times he had caught his father-in-law looking at it. When he would finally look up, away from it, his eyes were wide and bewildered, fogged in bruising pain. When Shmuel had met Mr. Reich, his wife had been gone for over twenty years, but the pain, the confusion, seemed as fresh as if her loss were only yesterday. He went on. “And no one did replace her. But there


RECAP: SHMUEL IS BROUGHT TO THE WITNESS STAND. HE ADMITS THAT HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS FATHER-IN-LAW WAS NOT A GOOD ONE, BUT MAINTAINS THAT MR. REICH WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THRILLED WITH ANYONE THAT TOVA WOULD HAVE MARRIED BECAUSE HE LOVED HER SO MUCH.

needed to be a stabilizing element in a home that was slowly collapsing in on itself. Oh, there were the neighbors, the aunts, even the grandmother for a short time until she passed away. Housekeepers, too, though they came later. But people who come and go can’t, by their very nature, provide any stability. “And someone needed to provide that stability. So someone did. That someone

of her childhood…I can’t judge him, of course. But the household very quickly revolved around her. She was so very important. And even though he knew that he should let her go when the time was right…well, Dad had a very hard time letting go of anything dear to him. He scoured every potential match and nixed almost all of them. Tova married, finally, years after her younger sister. There were

“But the bottom line is, I think, that I am forever a symbol of something that my father-in-law hated most of all.” was a young girl, much too young for the job. But someone needed to do it. And so, Tova did it. She took over. She made sure that her father stocked the house with fresh groceries, not just takeout. She taught herself how to cook simple but healthful meals, and made sure that Lakey did her homework and that her father got his hair cut and made dentist appointments. All of the million and one things that come along with running a house suddenly fell to Tova.” Shmuel paused. He knew that to Tova, Mr. Reich, always on a pedestal in life, had turned into something nearing perfection in death. But the truth was the truth. And wasn’t that why they were here, in this great and gloomy courtroom, in the first place? “How Dad allowed Tova to be stripped

a lot of superficial reasons for my fatherin-law not to get along as well with me as he did with Avi, Lakey’s husband. But the bottom line is, I think, that I am forever a symbol of something that my fatherin-law hated most of all.” Shmuel raised one arm lightly into the air and gently opened his fist. “And that is letting those he loved…go.” Shmuel looked up. Tova had tears running down her cheeks, and her hands were over her mouth. Lakey, too, had mascara streaks down her face. He saw her reach into her pocketbook with shaking hands and pull out a tiny compact mirror. She fixed the blackened mess with quick, practiced motions. “So to answer your question, yes. He loved her too much.” Shmuel said. “Too much to have any room in his heart for 3 KISLEV 5774

me.” His voice grew stronger. “And to think that he would write her out of his will in any way, shape or form is, in my opinion, too ridiculous for words.” “Can I just say something?” A small voice broke through the echoing silence following Shmuel’s speech. It was Tova. She had risen to her feet. Her cheeks were wet, but her eyes were clear. “What are you doing?” Marvin Cohen asked, startled. He jabbed his forefinger at her seat. “Tova, you can’t just—” “Can’t I? Why not?” Tova turned to the judge. “I’m sorry, your honor. I’m sorry for this whole thing. I’d like to…to…I don’t know what it’s called. To, um, withdraw my claims—” Marvin Cohen’s face was a perfect picture of confusion. He hastily stood beside Tova and pitched his voice to drown out hers. “Your honor, I’d like to request a recess. My client is, quite understandably, agitated—” “No recess.” The judge said to Marvin Cohen. “No talking,” he said to Tova. “It’s time for me to do some talking around here for a change.” He pointed to Shmuel. “Young man, if you’re quite finished talking my ear off, please return to your seat. And silence in my courtroom or so help me I’ll have every single one of you held in contempt of court. Or flogged.” He looked wistful over that idea for a minute. “Now, listen carefully. The rest of your witnesses and evidence is inadmissible. Don’t bother with it. This court case is over. I have reached my verdict.” n  |

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days Falling Autumn Leaves A budding therapist explores his roots By Mendel Horowitz

W

hen last I saw my grandmother we both wept. I had been living in Israel for some time and was visiting New York for what felt like an Amazon summer. Boro Park was naturally parking-spot deficient and the air so burst with moisture it squished as I hiked from my Chevrolet toward her modest brick quarters. The stoop was as red as it was in my mind; the apartment as stiflingly hot as when my grandfather still shuffled over the creaky wooden flooring. Of my four grandparents I felt closest to Bubby Jeanie, my mother’s mother. As her first grandchild, Bubby forever identified me as her “number one” and more than once slipped extra bills into my palm on Chanukah. We shared an affinity for melody and prose, and when she confessed to attending the funeral of a stranger because she was “in the mood to cry” I could relate to that lonesome sentiment. Bubby was endearingly profound. Before moving overseas and fathering my own children, I had neglected to consider the nature of my grandparental relations. Knowing all four grandparents (and three great-grandparents), I was undeniably blessed. Still, a combination

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of generational differences and youthful indifferences resulted in my taking those elders for granted. I treated my senior relatives with a combination of deference and boredom. Conversations with grandparents were superficially tender, and proposed visits far exceeded actual encounters. I knew precious little about my nearby predecessors and would not invest the time to learn more about them. I was not yet five when Death first robbed me of an ancestor. Faiga, that great-grandmother, is preserved only in name; whatever recollections of her that were sown no longer blossom. Her husband, the patriarch of that family line, was taken next, when I was already ten and old enough to grieve. Savta, a paternal matriarch, lived until my teenage years, when I was aware of her generation fading but too wrapped up in myself to really care. After my grandparents were orphaned and they became the elders, our family circle seemed a bit more contemporary. Whereas their parents were always ancient, my parents’ parents were—however slightly—more up to date. It was impossible to imagine my grandparents on foreign soil, although they were rooted in other lands. I thought of my grandpar3 KISLEV 5774

ents as older Americans who, while fluent Yiddish speakers, peered forward as much as they peeked back. I felt secure with them behind me and fortunate to have them around. While not quite intimate, our relationships were full of meaning. My grandparents were as interested in me as they knew how to be. I was in college when my father’s mother suffered a stroke, and I was able to disguise my mourning with a magnified interest in biological psychology. Bubby Mary was my first English-speaking forbear to die. After years of avoiding me, Death was creeping closer. And I did not like it one bit. Following her unforeseen exit I steadily became aware of my grandparents growing old. As their bodies wrinkled and their movement slowed, each became fragile and oddly compliant; all spoke more about the past than the future. With fascination and dread, I watched my grandparents age. From the time I married and moved overseas, each visit home took on an unnerving sense of urgency. Somehow, the physical distance from them enabled me to consider my grandparents as human beings. I found myself wondering who they were as children and siblings, and how they served as parents to my own


FROM THE TIME I MARRIED AND MOVED OVERSEAS, EACH VISIT HOME TOOK ON AN UNNERVING SENSE OF URGENCY. father and mother. The questions became more pressing as my children were born. My grandparents were suddenly the ancient ones, and time was running out to discover them. I did not get many answers. In place of exploring my rising curiosity, what precious moments we had together were spent introducing my children to their great-grandparents. I took pride in securing my children’s relationship with their fading ancestors. My grandparents had assumed the role their parents played for me, and my children were beneficiaries of their newfound softness. Our annual visits had an air of delight and were punctuated with a feeling of acute satisfaction. My mother’s father was next to fall. Zaidy Louie had been forever sturdy, with a resonating voice and stubborn demeanor. Zaidy’s decline was swift, as Parkinson’s rendered him unrecognizably frail. Remarkably, Zaidy’s countenance assumed a certain glow as his body waned. He grew a beard, muted his tone, and quietly became the patriarch his father once was. During his final illness, when paying homage at the nursing home, Zaidy smiled kindly at my oldest son. The figure I eulogized a few weeks later went in peace, having successfully

linked with a fresh generation. Zaidy Sam was different. When my father’s father abruptly weakened a few years later I was unprepared for how his demise would affect me. Zaidy was a first born, just like me, my son, and my father. My father’s relationship with his father was perceptibly difficult and Zaidy had been estranged from his father from a young age. While my paternal bond was secure, I had begun to speculate about what qualities might be hereditary along our masculine family line. As I watched Zaidy deteriorate I was somehow inspired to seek my father in awkward, untried ways. It seems fitting that Bubby Jeanie was last to depart. My mother’s mother was distinctively charming and her allure became pronounced as she faded. After Zaidy died, Bubby maintained that she was “ready to go,” that there were as many people “there” for her as “here.” By that time my annual pilgrimage had assumed distinct rituals. I would arrive with my family, unannounced, peer impatiently into her room, and be met with her astonished cry. Upon placing my children on and around her bed, Bubby would speak candidly of her satisfactions. She exulted in her progeny and treated 3 KISLEV 5774

each of my children with personalized affection. When parting I would sneak a quick look back and our teary eyes would momentarily engage. Bubby partook in a process of farewell that enabled me to say goodbye with minimal regrets. Now my parents are the elders, and only I stand between them and my children. My grandchildhood has ended. All of a sudden my parents have become their parents and I have become mine. I find it worrisome to think of my parents as seniors and play with them vicariously through my children. The generations have blurred and I am ill-at-ease. At long last, my curiosity has shifted to my own father and mother. I make valiant attempts at conversation, but the words do not come easy. After decades of reticence, it is intimidating to find a voice that communicates my interest. I am afraid of what I may find out. I am afraid of running out of time. At times I succeed in approaching them, but the courage more often eludes me. I am a parent, and a child too.  Mendel Horowitz is a rabbi and family therapist in Jerusalem, where he maintains a private practice working with adults and children. |

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days To Go or Not to Go

Mom vs. open school night: the gloves come off By Shana Rabinowicz

A

h, Open School Night: every parent’s dream evening. There’s nothing like the thrill of walking into your child’s classroom at the start of the new year, sitting at her desk and meeting the charming educator who will be sculpting her mind for the next ten months. It never fails to excite and inspire, no matter whether this is the first time, or you’ve done it ten times before. There’s so much to drink in, it’s a pity the night ever has to end. Okay, I’m lying. Open School Night is one of those parenting duties that falls low on my preference list, somewhere between staying up all night with a colicky infant and cleaning out gooey who-knowswhat from the back of the minivan. I’m patient by nature, but Open School Night can push me beyond my saintly threshold. This is how it works in my daughters’ school. First, they look at the calendar and see which night would be the least convenient for moms (or at least this one). It’s not that hard to figure out: after Rosh Hashanah, before Sukkos, and not on a Thursday night or Erev Yom Kippur. Now we’re left with two or three possible nights. How to choose? Easy. Call the school my boys go to and make sure it’s

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the same night. Such a chesed: They’re saving me the trouble of having to hire a babysitter on two separate occasions. Then there’s the schedule. The sessions are staggered so that parents can get to every class, which works great if you only have two daughters in the school. I, however, have four, so the staggering only makes my life more complicated for reasons that I still haven’t figured out. So first I need to get a map of the school (preferably with an aerial view) to see where the four classrooms are: of course they’re the four most opposite points in the building, spread over three floors. (Another chesed: They know this is the only exercise I get all year, and how badly I need it.) I take out my stopwatch and a GPS, and sit down to strategize. In a forty-five minute time frame, I have ten teachers among the four girls, each teacher getting ten or fifteen minutes to speak. Due to the staggering factor, I have my choice of three classrooms in which I can be at any given moment. How to decide? I used to just run into the classroom closest to the building’s main entrance, hoping that one of my kids would be in that class. It usually worked, too. Last year I was thrilled to find that the fourth grade was the first door in the hallway. Perfect! I had a fourth grader! I made a 3 KISLEV 5774

mad dash into the room and sat down in a sweet little desk, actually feeling myself relax. The teacher, who turned out to be adorable, began speaking and I enjoyed her so much that I decided to skip the other classes so I could hear her whole speech. It was the very first time I didn’t sit with my eyes glazed over, dreaming of being home, knee-deep in kugel batter and challah twisting. I was proud of myself: Maybe I was outgrowing my aversion to Open School Night. But then, as I spaced out for a minute and shopped the other sheitels in the room— oh, stop judging me; as if you’ve never done that!—I realized I didn’t recognize any of the other mothers. Uh-oh, I thought, jerking back to reality. I was in the wrong fourth grade classroom. How was I supposed to know there were three fourth-grade classes in the school? But this year took the cake. The boys’ and the girls’ schools scheduled our enchanted evening for (of course) the same night: the Tuesday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Throw into the equation that the three gown gemachs in town, where I needed to find something for my brother’s wedding, were only open on—you guessed it— Tuesday nights. (Does this make sense to anyone? Please explain it to me.) I


I’M PRETTY SURE I’M THE KIND OF PARENT MOST TEACHERS WISH TO AVOID. had hoped the hours would all magically work out so I could get through Open School Night guilt-free. But not even a vernal equinox could have stretched time that far. The boys’ sessions started earlier, so I ran there first, then zoomed to one gemach, then across town to the second, then got to the girls’ school’s parking lot just as the building was emptying out. I jumped out of my car, attempting to get lost in the shuffle, when I inadvertently

(albeit fortuitously) bumped into the principal, who thanked me warmly for taking the time to be there. Ten points for Supermom. I know that parent-teacher communication is vital. But when I think of the stressed-out whackadoo I morph into on Open School Night, running from floor to floor, taking in barely a word of what I hear, I’m pretty sure I’m the kind of parent most teachers

3 KISLEV 5774

wish to avoid. So I am waving the white flag. It is impossible for me to pull off Open School Night and come out sane. Next year, I’m playing hooky. Maybe I’ll get lucky and each teacher will assume I was in one of the other three rooms. Or maybe I’ll pick lots and just go to one and then go home. And if next year’s fourth grader ends up with that teacher I liked, I can tell her, honestly, that I so enjoyed her speech at Open School Night.  To submit your story for this column or to have your story featured here, please contact us at submissions@amimagazine. org.

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