Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family

The Other Side of that Smile

We love to get your letters and comments, even in handwriting, as this one came. We are happy to poke readers out of lethargy to say what they feel, pro or against our material. This one was written in heat. We hope to have the author rebut in a future issue. Address: Weinbach @ Panim Meirot 1, Jerusalem, or FAX 02-538-7998.

In response to the poem "Journey of a Soul" [Parshas Bo], I would like to PROTEST. No, I do not myself have a Down's Syndrome child, but I am very close to people who do and I have some idea what they and others go through. Before I elaborate, I would like to object to the part of asking the Rebbe. This would seem to denigrate acceptance of a psak from a Rov. How could you???

If an objective, responsible third party who knows the parents and the family set-up deems it advisable that the child NOT be taken home, judge favorably and consider that there are legitimate reasons for the decision. All the more so if the decision is made by a Torah authority. In cases I know of, some of the extenuating circumstances have been that elderly grandparents are being cared for by the parents; the parents themselves have health problems; other children in the family have health problems which already overwhelm the family etc. All the more so if the Down's child is born with heart or lung problems which may entail continual crises and hospitalizations.

No, not everyone can cope with such complex problems -- and only Hashem knows why He sent this additional bonus their way. In some such families, other children were neglected and some even went off the Torah path or were otherwise messed up. And sometimes, the baby is neglected and would have been better elsewhere.

Furthermore, I know of one family who did `keep' the child, but never really bonded, and the child is starving for warmth and suffers very, very much. They are very dutiful about the myriad medical problems but have no energy, neither physical nor emotional, left over for TLC.

On the other hand, I know of several wonderful, unique families who have taken in over the years several foster Down's and other `special' children and have nurtured them beautifully. These are very special families but it may also be easier for them just because it is not their own flesh and blood...

And what do you think that your poem did to a parent who was coerced by circumstances, or even by the other parent, to give up the baby? I know of a couple who got divorced because the husband was so achievement-oriented that he was not willing to wrestle with a no-win situation. He gave up a very prestigious position and moved away, rather than stay with the child! I don't know if they did this according to daas Torah or not. But this is true.

I also object to your poem implying that Down's babies given up for adoption are lost to Jewry. I doubt that any Rebbe or even observant parents would ever use such a non- option.

Last but not least, I would like to point out that from time to time, stories and articles crop up in the religious press full of how `wonderful' is the privilege of being blessed with a special child. I have asked quite a few such mothers and they all say they are very pained by these articles. I know of only one mother who really kept saying she was grateful for this opportunity and I don't know how long that feeling would have lasted even for her, since the child died at nine months.

I also know of another mother who managed exceptionally well with a Down's child born when she still had a houseful of older daughters. But by the time the next special child was born, the situation was quite different. The family was bigger and there were already grandchildren deserving attention but the mother had less energy and most of the helpers were married. By then, there was also an elderly parent needing lots of care. Same good intentions but because of changing circumstances, very different coping.

On the next page you have Rifca Goldberg's story about her own Down's daughter. [Ed. Correction: Tzvia is a beautiful child with the intellect/maturity of a two-year- old.] Her articles are wonderful and she seems like a most admirable person [she is!!!] whom I would love to know. However, not all special kids are so `royal'. Some have been so overwhelmed by the excitement of their party that it has become an embarrassing fiasco. And when such a parent reads this article, they most probably feel like a failure, or that Hashem is angry at them by by not letting them have such `nachas'...

I also know of a family who turned down a shidduch with the sibling of a Down's child because they felt that the special child would become an emotional and financial burden on the siblings as the years went by.

These are realities with which real people struggle. Help these people to cope, try to understand how very difficult it can be and please, please, please don't assume that it is mere thoughtlessness and selfishness that makes them act and decide as they do. Please be more careful with your Mussar in the future.

Keep up the good work. In admiration,

Mira Neufeld


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