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Editor’s Note: Rebbetzin Jungreis, a”h, is no longer with us in a physical sense, but her message is eternal and The Jewish Press will continue to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.
A Family Destroying Itself
For the past several weeks this column has focused on the shocking breakdowns that are plaguing frum Jewish families. This week I would like to share a letter that adds another dimension to this tragedy. In this instance it’s not the children who have rejected the parents but a parent who has rejected her child.
It is with much sorrow that I publicize these letters, though I feel it is important to do so. It is simply unbelievable that our family life, which was always held sacrosanct and had been a model for all nations, has fallen in so many cases to such a low.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,
My family was no different from others. I have one sister and two brothers. My mom and dad had their issues and disagreements, which at times were very tense. They quarreled – sometimes so loudly that even if we children tried to find sanctuary in our rooms, we still could hear it.
However, even with all that discord, they never divorced. There were times when there was a cold war between them; nothing was said but the tension was palpable and we were all victimized by it. But they always maintained a home for us.
My father had a real-estate business and did fairly well. I wasn’t much interested in it since I wanted to go into medicine. Then my father suddenly became ill and I had to help him out. I learned the business easily and came to like it.
I especially enjoyed working with my father and we always had a good relationship. He never questioned my integrity and things went well. My younger brothers made their careers in the world of finance and my sister got married and moved to Arizona, where her husband joined his family’s business.
As my father’s illness progressed, I had to take on more and more responsibilities. In my personal life many changes occurred as well. I met a beautiful girl who became my life partner. G-d blessed us with three great kids. Life seemed good, with the exception of my father’s deteriorating health.
The doctor told us my father would need open heart surgery but he assured us that nowadays these procedures were not life threatening. Sadly, the operation was not a success. My beloved father passed away and there was a terrible void my life. True, he had been sick for a long time, but his presence had always been very powerful and it strengthened me.
My father was not only a parent, he was my mentor and best friend. He was the person who guided me and taught me what I could never have learned at any university. My father was a mighty role model to follow and I will always thank G-d for the privilege of having been his son.
Three years after his passing my nightmare commenced when I received a letter from an attorney whom my mother had engaged. I was shocked. She claimed I had tampered with assets that rightly belonged to her and accused me of theft.
I kept rereading the letter but could not believe it. I could not sleep. I could not eat. Again and again the question kept repeating itself in my mind – how could a mother do this to her son? If she had any grievances, why couldn’t we just talk? Despite everything, I swallowed my feelings and called her – but she wouldn’t take my call.
I did not give up. I e-mailed her. She did not respond. I sent her text messages. She ignored them. I spoke to my siblings and asked them to intercede but that turned out to be another disaster because they joined her in shunning me. There was money involved and greed took over. I went to third parties and asked them to get involved but that too was futile. In desperation I approached the rabbi in her community and asked for his help. He informed me that he hardly knew her but he’d be happy to try. Predictably, she would not communicate with him.
Today my situation is unbearable. I have been forced to hire attorneys. The amount I have spent on legal fees is beyond words. But it’s not only money that’s at stake. My life and the lives of my wife and children are on the line as well. My mother is pursuing me relentlessly. My lawyers have tried to make a deal with her attorneys but they refused.
My mother’s venom is such that she wouldn’t care at all if I ended up in jail. It is not only the lawsuit that is torturing me but the cruelty of my mother and the callousness of my siblings. It is apparent they are all ready to kill for the almighty dollar and it’s me – their son and brother – they are all willing to destroy.
I really do not know how you can help me. This is not a problem for which there are easy solutions. It is only my mother who could change the situation by removing this albatross from around my neck. Nevertheless, I am writing to you to ask for your prayers and that you please share my letter with your readers. Perhaps my mother will see it and realize how heinous, how horrific, this family tragedy is.