July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Letters to the Editor

SPARKS Thanks Twerski Lecture Attendees

We would like to thank those who came out and joined us for our unique awareness event on April 7 in which we heard Rabbi Dr. A. J. Twerski share his experiences as a clinical psychiatrist. We are extremely grateful for all the support that Rabbi Dr. Twerski has given SPARKS over the years.

As part of his lecture Rabbi Dr. Twerski highlighted the importance of fulfilling neglected mitzvot which are most precious to Hashem. He related this to postpartum disorders, which can be a life-threatening illness which has very little coverage and is severely neglected. Over his 40 years of psychiatric practice he witnessed the severe damage that can result from postpartum disorders when they are not adequately managed and refers to the work of SPARKS as pikuach nefesh.

Postpartum depression affects 15 percent of mothers (whether it is their first or fifth child) and if left untreated can lead to a primary mental illness, hospitalization, suicide and infanticide. The sheer number of families suffering and on the verge of total collapse is shocking. We presented our documentary in which we show how SPARKS lifesaving services can prevent devastating outcomes.

Our mission is to provide mothers and their families who are suffering from the unnecessary pain of postpartum depression, the proper care they deserve.

SPARKS was founded in 2007 by Esther Kenigsberg who felt that something must be done to help the women in her community. We understand and value a woman’s need for privacy and recognize the uniqueness of each individual’s circumstances, which is handled with the utmost sensitivity and expertise. Over the years the popularity of SPARKS has grown to such a demand that we proudly assist more than 1,000 new families annually as well as maintaining our support to previous families in need.

Through raising awareness we seek to end the negative stigma of shame attached to this disease by reaching as many women as possible so they know they are not alone. We provide relief to these women through our many lifesaving services, which also cater to her family. We host numerous awareness events to provide knowledge to communities to understand what a perinatal disorder is, what it looks like and the importance of early intervention to prevent the devastating consequences it can have. Most importantly, through our helpline we provide support for these mothers, many of whom don’t understand why they are feeling the way they are feeling, and give them a safe space to speak out, which is always the first step in any treatment, and stay with them throughout their journey until they are completely healed.

We would like to thank Yael and Yehuda Jacoby for hosting this event in their wonderful home and ensuring that every need was catered for, and thank those who came and supported us.

Jackie Kanzen, SPARKS


Join PORAT at Its Inaugural Event

My grandfather, Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, was one of the youngest students of the Baal Shem Tov. As an itinerant preacher in the 18th century he espoused a philosophy of tolerance and acceptance. For the Jews of the Ukraine who were searching for meaning and as a reply to those who opposed Hasidut, his message of “derachecha darchei noam” brought hope.

I wonder at times if we as a Jewish community have lost our way of our appreciation that every Jew is created in the image of God. I therefore come to my Judaism as a pluralist, not validating the paths that all Jews take, but with the understanding that the ways of Torah are transcendent and pleasant. All Jewish discourse should be directed by choice, civility and pleasantry. In a particularistic way, Modern Orthodoxy should reflect a pleasant Torah. The Modern Orthodox community has reached a crisis point. We would be fools if we did not recognize that there are marked differences in the spectrum of left and right of Modern Orthodoxy. There are some in our community who are quick to push out those whose opinion may be somewhat or radically different in how halacha is interpreted. It would be naive of me to expect easy solutions to all issues of Jewish law. However, the discussions that ensue as a result of disagreement need to be pleasant, text based and respectful.

Issues regarding the role of women in the community, agunot and personal status are complex. In a community of Jewishly well-educated men and women, voices need to be heard and understood, the issues need to be studied and discussed, and left open for critical review. Institutions have been founded to answer the needs of both men and women. In response to those voices, agencies like Giyur k’halacha and the International Bet Din are seeking answers to the complex agunah and conversion issues that face our community. What has the response been by the establishment? Instead of sitting down at the table, these institutions have been brandished as invalid. Organizations in Israel like Beit Morasha and Beit Hillel are paradigms of civility and openness and there are voices of moderation in the RCA as well as at the Center of the Jewish Future of Yeshiva University.

It is in the spirit of “darachecha darchei noam” that I want to call attention to a new organization that has been formed by concerned individuals in the Modern Orthodox community. The formation of PORAT is inspired by the principles of open dialogue, inclusivity, tolerance, thoughtful halachic observance and progressive education. PORAT’S inaugural event will take place this Sunday evening at Congregation Kehillat Jeshurun in New York City at 7 p.m. Featured speakers will be Rabbi Benny Lau, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Ann Pava and Steven Bayme. More information can be found on the website: www.poratonline.org.

I want to urge all Modern Orthodox Jews regardless of if they see themselves as left, right or center to attend this event. I hope that the establishment of PORAT can bring us together to discuss issues of concern to all of us who identify with Modern Orthodoxy.

Neal Twersky


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