I am in my forties and have never been married. For the last five and a half years, I have been taking care of my mother, a Holocaust survivor, full-time. We have no other relatives, and she insists that she will never have a home attendant. It has been quite an undertaking, but I am thankful nonetheless for G‑d’s help and the chizuk received from good friends and acquaintances.
I attended neighborhood yeshivas as a girl, and I also obtained college degrees. I received top grades all throughout school. I love learning since I am intellectually driven. I had worked for many years in accounting. I originally planned on attending law school, but was deterred due to my mother’s injury and my subsequent caretaking of her. Eventually, her arthritis set in, and I stopped working altogether.
The only time I get out is when I take my mother to the senior center that she has been faithfully attending. Lately, that has not been happening every day anymore, due to weather and arthritis.
In terms of dating, I attended many Shabbatons and singles’ events in the past, which did not yield any long-term relationships. In addition, because I am a full-time caretaker for my mother, I am not always able to go to events or on dates.
Despite these seeming obstacles, I feel that I must put in as much hishtadlus as is humanly possible right now, or I may never be able to do anything about my single status in the future. I feel that at this stage in my life, I need to focus on individuals who were previously married or are widowed, with children, since I have had no mazal with older single men who have never been married.
I have not given nachas to my parents. My father, who also went through the concentration camps during the war, died a few years ago without seeing me married.
Well, I want to do better—I want to prove Hitler wrong and show that, with G‑d’s help, anything is possible. Please advise me.
By Baila Sebrow
Hitler’s Holocaust did not just affect the more than six million murdered victims that this generation is accustomed to hearing about, but the survivors as well. While many survivors outwardly went on to lead seemingly healthy, fulfilling lives, marrying and running successful businesses, emotionally they too were murdered. Furthermore, so were many of their offspring. Hence, the branded term “Children of Holocaust Survivors.”
When people talk about the shidduch crisis, they are conditioned to believe that the newcomers to the scene, the 20-somethings, are the ones going through hardships in their quest to find their bashert. They automatically blame today’s customs and rules with regard to dating as the explanation for the epic numbers of unmarried singles.
Little is known of the plight amongst older never-married singles whose opportunities for professional advancement and matrimonial prospects were inadvertently thwarted by their Holocaust-surviving parents. Sadly, these singles who loyally relinquished various privileges for the sake of their parents are still riddled with guilt for the lack of the nachas they feel their parents were entitled to but did not get.
The tales that children heard and were exposed to of those murdered in the Holocaust left indelible impressions on them. Internalizing and absorbing the aftermath of their parents’ trauma, many of these children developed an incessant need to do everything in their power to protect their parents and make them happy—even if it meant sacrificing their own needs.
Thank you for your courage in writing your letter and raising awareness of the problem that so many frum singles of your age bracket are facing. You are a remarkably beautiful person for helping to publicize that which so many in similar circumstances are ashamed to talk about.
In the first place, you need to believe that yes, you have given your parents immense nachas. Although your father unfortunately passed away without ever having the chance to see you married, he knew that you are a devoted and loving daughter. He watched as you prepared to go away to a singles’ Shabbaton or attend an event. He observed the enthusiasm in your eyes, and also recognized the disappointment that you surely attempted to conceal when a relationship did not work out for you. Your father was also aware of how you sacrificed an opportunity to attend law school to take care of your mother. You need to believe that your father left this world knowing that you set the record for being a daughter of exemplary genuine kindness and respect.
Your parents, as others of that generation, suffered unspeakable horror. Words and images alone are not enough to authentically convey the dreadfulness of that time. Surrendering your chances for happiness will not remove the memories that were inflicted upon them.
Your elderly mother refuses to allow a home attendant to care for her, because of where she is coming from in her life—she mistrusts people in general, especially those who are not Jewish. Not only that, but she may likely fear having a stranger in her home. You therefore have to accustom her to having someone else in the home.
Tell your mother that because you love her so much, you want to do even more for her. Explain to her that you received a good recommendation for a talented and sought-after woman to come by a few hours each day to visit with her and help out a bit. Your mother will likely resist and tell you that this woman will steal. Assure her that you will hide or remove all valuables.
Your mother needs to be gently weaned from depending exclusively on you. When you introduce the attendant, make your mother feel that she is in control of deciding who gets to be hired, but do not let her protests prevent you from hiring an attendant. To help in the transition, you will need to stay with the attendant, at least in the beginning. With time, leave the house—increasing the time each day that you are away. Call your mother frequently to ease any angst she may feel, as well as your own. It will be very natural for you to also experience anxiety being away from your mother.
I urge you to use that time away from home to find a therapist who understands and is sensitive to your particular state of affairs. There are many highly trained and qualified clinicians who have helped countless children of Holocaust survivors move on with their lives in a healthy, productive way.
Being intellectually driven, as you describe yourself, and loving to learn, it is still not too late for you to attempt a career in law as you had previously hoped to do. I believe that the first step before marriage is for you to feel daily fulfillment in your life. If going back to school is not something you feel up to right now, at least go back to work. Doing something you enjoy will open your world in ways that you cannot imagine.
I am happy that you want to prove Hitler wrong and that you recognize that you must put in hishtadlus. Yes, as you say, with Hashem’s help anything is possible. The strongest revenge against an enemy is to live a fruitful life. Hitler wanted to extinguish the Jews. But G‑d has not allowed him to succeed. We are, baruch Hashem, increasing in numbers and in matters of spirituality. Finding that special someone to share your life with will ultimately bring nachas to your mother and will honor your father’s memory.
It sounds like you have a strong network of friends. Utilize that gift and vocalize your readiness for marriage. I am impressed with your broad-minded view in dating. I agree with your assessment that a previously married man who has fathered children will be most compatible with you. A man with that background will be most understanding of your unique lifestyle thus far.
As you will, with Hashem’s help, stand under the chuppah, your mother will be beaming from the happiness that she will be blessed to witness, while your father will smile down upon you and your chassan from Gan Eden, raining many berachos upon your holy union.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
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