Parenting Tweets

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Let’s try an experiment. Below is my Twitter feed from this past Sunday’s Agudath Israel of America Evening of Chizuk in Marine Park, on the subjects of marriage and parenting. Speakers included R. Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of AIA; R. Shmuel Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva of the Talmudical Academy in Phildaelphia; R. Yakov Horowitz, dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey.

Please view this as notes, and judge favorably that nothing here is intended as an insult and any mistakes or over-simplifications are my fault. (My Twitter feed can be found here: link)

  • Intro. We’re here to hear Daas Torah on marriages and parenting.
  • R Chaim Dovid Zwiebel is speaking. Praising the community and not Agudah. Very classy, as usual.
  • RCD Zwiebel quotes his sister Zehava Braunstein. She prefered to be called Mrs rather than Rebbetzin because she was proudest of her family
  • Now he’s plugging Agudah.
  • Agudah was founded nearly 100 years ago to protect Jewish families against the “isms”. Today we’ve got plenty of “isms” also.
  • Probably about 175 men here now.
  • R Shmuel Kamenetsky is up.
  • Kedushas Habayis has to be so strong that it stays with us all day.
  • Learn Torah, women act with tznius.
  • Gemara-women have zechus of enabling men to learn. Men can also get a zechus by enabling others to learn (R Yitzchak Elchanan)
  • Children know what is important to parents. Fathers have to give children time. Parents have to speak gently to each other.
  • Kedushas habayis is that the home is like a mikdash me’at. Children have to know that learning is important to fathers.
  • Women should learn something together, even by telephone.
  • The kedushas habayis is the kedushah we instill into the home.
  • You need to set times for Torah, for the sake of your family. You need friends who share the same values.
  • Learn together with your wife on Shabbos so your kids see you both want to elevate yourselves.
  • We have to work to create a kedushas habayis. It won’t come by itself. You have to work together with your spouse to grow, specially on Shab
  • In general – grow and be good respectful Jews for your children’s sake.
  • Over 200 men by now. Big mechitzah, I can’t see how many women.
  • And he’s done. Went to get a drink and peeked at women’s section. Overflow crowd – 200+
  • R Yakov Horowitz is up
  • Chassidishe couple, husband no longer frum. Visitation? Judge says to mediate. The non-frum father agrees to go to R Horowitz. Point is…
  • We’re all like the woman. We have joint custody with the non-frum street. Although with tech the yetzer hara now makes house calls.
  • Parents need to be optimistic. Studies say that kids think: what would the parents say or do? Parenting matters (Yosef, image of father)
  • Drush: Yosef thought of what his father thought of him. Believe in your kids and be optimistic/ confident about their success.
  • Be confident with your kids. Ask them what to do and when they talk back stay on topic and be confident. Teach them to hondle respectfully.
  • People parent for 15-20 years. If you do it right the first time, later in life you just guide and have nachas. If you check out /c
  • /c you spend the time later in life cleaning up the messes. So do it right the first time b/c you’ll end having to do it anyway.
  • Don’t be too perfectionist. No family fits the ideal. You need to accommodate to reality.
  • Chart a course for your families. Have a vision of the goal.
  • A kid says: every year my parents come back from the Agudah convention and say they’re going to throw out the tv.
  • From Project Yes, a list of risk factors for kids. High on the list is not having a single shul and rabbi.
  • @chaimshapiro List is based on observations from Project Yes, his program for at-risk kids.
  • Follow schools’ guidelines or don’t send to the school. Otherwise kids get confused.
  • Fight for your family time. So many demands but you have to spend time with kids.
  • Having dinner together is very important. If you can’t, compensate.
  • One father was away all week. But Friday night he would spend 3-4 hours alone with one of his children, alternating each week.
  • What will your children say in their one sentence about you 30 years from now?
  • We all (just about) go through bad times in our marriages. You work through it. That’s part of life.
  • Live question from the audience: what if kids don’t want to have family time but wants to play with friends?
  • Answer: that’s perfectly normal at a certain age. But there are still other opportunities to spend time together.
  • R S Kamenetsky: divide your time, make time for your children but also make time for your own growth.
  • Q: If husb & wife work so hard they’re burnt out, how can kids get life from Yiddishkeit when parents don’t?
  • A from RY Horowitz: you need to find time to spend as a couple to rejuvenate. You can’t live on overload forever. And talk to your rabbi.
  • Going out into the workplace is very disorienting. Speak to older people and your rabbi.
  • Q about kids who go to college and lose faith. A from RSK: speak to your rabbi. A from RYH: tell him he’s still young & will grow to believe
  • RYH: Shabbos tables are normally chaotic. Keep the ruchnius short. Ask parsha questions on the couch.
  • Q how selective should parents be about childrens’ friends? Different haskafos. A from RSK: talk to your principal.
  • RYH: don’t criticize kids’ friends. It will backfire. Tread carefully. If you’re worried speak with an educator.
  • Q what if parents have fundamental differences with the school? A from RYH: send to a school that matches your views or back the school.
  • Q how do you manage older kids earning a parnasah and learning? A from RSK: the more you plan ahead, the more the kid will succeed in a c/
  • /c a way and area he wants. Talk to your kids’ rebbe, rosh yeshiva and rabbi.
  • Q what types of kosher relaxing activities are there? What should we encourage and discourage? A from RYH: Sports, wholesome old-fashioned
  • RYH cont’d: play an instrument
  • Q: someone tries to plant a question about a ban. Everyone’s uncomfortable and he is shut down.
  • @e_fink It wasn’t clear what ban. Maybe Lipa. It was inappropriate.
  • Q about special needs, balancing attention. Another Q about boys having no time for outlets.
  • Event over. Good night.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. IIRC, the YU sponsored conference on mental health dealt with eating disorders, kids at risk, and many other very current and important issues. I think that at least one blogger was there blogging in her usual verbatim style of the sum and substance of the speakers at the plenary sessions.

  2. R’ Gil,

    Great summary – IMHO the experiment worked well. Does AIA plan on putting this or future sessions on their website?

  3. This all sounds very sensible. I’d expect that similar questions at a similar sort of YU event would elicit very similar responses – the only exception I can think of might be that the Agudah speakers are a bit more trigger-happy with the “consult with your rabbi” answer, but I may be wrong about that.

    In light of Steve’s comment above, I would expect a YU session dealing with this sort of topic to discuss eating disorders, depression, and general psychological issues facing the community. I’m sure the Agudah is making great strides in confronting these issues as well, but I would guess (and again, I could be wrong) that YU is somewhat more sophisticated in this regard.

    All in all, very nice.

  4. I should add that I think the most interesting question chronicled in Gil’s Twitter feed is the one about appropriate relaxation activities. That, to me, is one of the most pressing matters to address when articulating an agenda for Orthodox Judaism in the modern world, regardless of whether one is MO, Charedi, or what have you.

  5. Jenny said:

    “Does AIA plan on putting this or future sessions on their website?”

    Are you under the impression AIA has a website? Think again.

  6. R’ Gil: Thanks for the coverage I had wanted to attend but got lazy after just finishing another event that ran from 6 -8.

    You had one particular point that resonated with me:

    “Q what types of kosher relaxing activities are there? What should we encourage and discourage? A from RYH: Sports, wholesome old-fashioned ”

    I have heard Rabbi Horowitz make this point in the past and I couldn’t agree more. For decades, yeshivah boys were active participants in playing ball – especially basketball – during their free time. I remember the days in Boro Park, when the park on 18th avenue and 57th street, was packed with yeshivah guys throughout chol hamoed and friday afternoons in the spring. I am not aware of any negative fallout among the many future talmidei chachomim and choshuveh ba’al habatim who were amongst the participants. Nowadays it seems our bochurim are led to believe that such things have no place in the life of a true “masmid”, while appatrently smoking has once again claimed a place in the lives of such “masmidim”. Go figure.

  7. Is there cognitive dissonance that young boys experience when their older siblings model listening to rabbeim over parents?

  8. >Q: someone tries to plant a question about a ban. Everyone’s uncomfortable and he is shut down.


  9. I’m with “Cohen” here. My boys are yeshivish but they play sports and love it. It makes them more complete people. But I see so many Yeshiva guys who never remove their white shirts and black pants (we joke about the penguins). Bein Hazmanim is spent at home but mostly in the local Bais Medrash. Motzei Shabbos has become a learning time with many avos u’vonim type programs (which are great – don’t get me wrong) but where are the sports programs that should follow? Those who say “pas nisht” make me want to hurl.

    When I was in Yeshiva years ago, we too had to endure Motzei Shabbos programs. It meant coming back to Yeshiva for a one hour seder. But it was followed by basketball or floor hockey or swimming in a nearby facility. It was a terrific opportunity for young yeshiva high schoolers to play ball with the older bais medrash guys. It gave them more humanity and built stronger personal friendships and mentorships. There was even melaveh malka after sports.

    My son goes to the same Yeshiva. They have Motzei Shabbos seder for an hour. That’s it. The Rebbeim joke (though I think not) that it is just to get the boys off the streets and ruin their ability to make “plans”. This is the dark atmosphere which the Yeshiva world has sunk to. I pray the kids will be normal.

  10. Re: kosher relaxing activites. Rabbi Horowitz did, after sports, mention learning a musical instrument, recalling how he and classmates used to be uplifted by listening to a particular fellow’s violin playing.

    I was quite disappointed at the ‘pre-event’ – the gathering of youngsters with their fathers at a small shul in the neighborhood – only because people were crammed in like sardines, in blatant disregard for how many people the room could safely hold.

  11. I have it on word from a Talmid Chacham classmate (during their time at RJJ) of one of the Stamford Roshei Yeshiva that this particular Rosh Yeshiva (there are two) was involved in basketball, chess, and “especially ping-pong.” Imagine the things that would be said about a bachur who participates in those things today!
    On another interesting note, it is common practice in a certain yeshiva (and I suspect in many others, though I have not bothered to note) not to urinate in the urinal, but the toilet. Ironically, at that very yeshiva, the Roshei Yeshiva are seen to use the urinals!
    During my time at one of the three largest Brooklyn yeshivas, I was told that the serious bachurim would not go into 7-11 because es pas nisht or whatever.

  12. The urinal thing is the same idea, by the way- it’s not “chashuv” to use the urinal!

  13. Phineas said:

    “I have it on word from a Talmid Chacham classmate (during their time at RJJ) of one of the Stamford Roshei Yeshiva that this particular Rosh Yeshiva (there are two) was involved in basketball, chess, and “especially ping-pong”

    I don’t doubt it. But you make it sound as if access to the information required hacking into a CIA dossier.

    Give me a break. There is hardly a single frum yeshivah graduate over the age of 40 today who can’t name a prominent American Rav or Rosh yeshiva (if not several) with whom he used to play ball “back in the day”. And most of these “old time” rabbonim have absolutely no qualms about sharing the fact.

    I’m 45, and I can name a few. As an alumnus of Camp Agudah I see no reason not to mention (since he did it almost daily for years in plain view of hundreds of campers and counselors) that Rav Yisroel Belsky shlit”a played paddle-ball with memebers of his Masmidim program in camp almost every day. I am certain that he advocated that it was a healthy if not necessary part of the daily routine for both himself and the bochurim.

    What’s more, my father a”h who would have been 85 now, was also an American born yeshivah boy, and he, too, was able to name a few Gedolim of his generation with whom he played ball, including at least two people I can think of who were at one time or another members of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah.

    So let’s drop any pretense that Daas Torah has any problem whatsoever with bnei torah playing ball.

    I think that fading away of ball-playing (like the reintroduction of smoking) is part of a larger trend over the last 10 – 20 years wherein American yeshivah bochurim have increasingly abandoned the charateristics that made them uniqely “American” bnei torah in favor of the habits of their Israeli counterparts by whom they have become increasingly influenced.

  14. Amazing how most things come back to one: Sechel tov – common sense.

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