Religious Jewish fathers don’t get a very positive portrayal in the media. On the side of fiction, there’s Tevye, from Fiddler on the Roof, who is strict and expects his family to obey him. There’s Shulem from Shtisel, who tries to limit his son Akiva and his dreams of being an artist. And then there’s the father from Unorthodox, who’s completely incapacitated because he’s always drunk. The news headlines are no better, capturing the worst, most abusive, low-life dads of the community.
I grew up thinking that Orthodox men were not only sexist and not involved in household chores or childcare, but that they didn’t even know how to be fun and playful (because Hasidic characters on TV were always serious). I was flabbergasted at one of the first shabbos meals that I attended, where I saw the husband clear the food after every course. I soon learned this was not an exception. In my twenty-plus years in the community, I have met countless loving and devoted fathers and husbands.
Since good news is rarely publicized, we decided to ask our readers if they could give us some insights as to why the Orthodox Jewish husband/dad in their life was so special, so we could change the narrative. We were flooded with so many entries after only a few minutes that we had to ask people to stop sending them in. Here is just a small selection of all the wonderful Orthodox Jewish fathers that are out there. Happy Father’s Day to all them and the rest of the incredible dads out there!
I want to share with you how my husband shatters the ceiling with being an involved dad. From waking up with the kids in the morning, preparing schedules, hands-on activities, learning experiences for the kids, and preparing dinner and doing bedtime from start to finish. He is so dedicated and never shies away from his responsibilities. He even decided to write a book about all the lessons he’s learned from our children- almost done the second round of editing. He has an Instagram he started where he shares little snippets of activities with the kids, and lessons learned from them – @fromallmyteachers. Here are a few pictures of what he does with them while I’m working. He paints with them, builds with them, bought a tent to go camping in our backyard with them, loves to do different experiments with them, creates games and every day fun for them. He is kind, loving, patient, and the best father my children could ever ask for. We thank Hashem every day for this Bracha!!
Chaya Oppen, Cedarhurst, NY
I wanted to write to you about my husband. He is the epitome of an involved father. He has always been that way. We used to play rocks, paper, scissors to determine who would change the kids’ diapers, but he never protested when he lost. From the beginning, he helped cook, clean, and take care of errands. But when our kids were born, he made a conscientious effort to create relationships with them. He spends hours and hours every Shabbos playing games with them. (During the week he does this too, when he has the time.) Despite being a busy physician, he always makes time for the kids. So much so, that in medical school, he made the decision to not strive to be at the top of his class. He made sure to maintain a balance between school and his home life because that was equally as important to him. When he was deciding which field to go into, he specifically close one that would allow him to have more time with his family, even if it meant making less money.
Two years ago, I was in a horrific car accident caused by a deer on the highway. The car ended up exploding, but thankfully my mother-in-law in I made it out of the car in time. We both suffered broken bones, but it was a miracle we survived. I shattered my ankle, and I was on bed rest for 3 months, not even allowed to go to the bathroom without an adult present, because I was such an extreme fall risk. Throughout that time, Shmuli never complained. He happily took care of me, the kids, the house, and his job. He also put up with my mother moving in for three weeks, which was probably not so easy. He was incredible, and still is.
He makes sure to take an interest in each of my children’s interests, and relate to them as individuals. He listens calmly to them, and he tries to handle every situation with patience and thoughtfulness. I feel so lucky to have such an incredible husband and father to our children.
I know I rambled on, I just couldn’t even begin to organize all of the wonderful things he does for our kids. Thank you for giving me the chance to honor him, even if it’s just in this email.
Deena Ganz, Scranton, PA
Brian Ungar, originally from White Oak, PA and now of Maale Adumim, Israel is the single father of 7! THE most involved father I have ever seen. Brian is divorced and the primary caregiver to his 6 minor children including 1 with downs syndrome. Brian bonds with each of his kids as individuals. He is a positive role model, and not afraid to show his love, pride, and commitment to his kids. Whether learning Torah or algebra, Brian is at the dining room table with the kids making the material relevant. Brian cooks with his kids giving them great life skills, it’s just not always about the eating…Brian is my neighbor and friend, I admire his strength and perseverance. He parents with love, humor, and a firmness when needed.
Highlighting Brian just validates what his children already know, Brian is an awesome Daddy!
Mimi Elias Maizlech, Maale Adumim, Israel
“I am a happily married (25+ years) Orthodox woman whose husband has been there in every way for our kids and me. He supported me through both of my parents’ deaths, held down the fort when I went back to graduate school after the birth of our 3rd child (we have 4 kids, poo, poo, poo), and is THERE whenever any one of us needs him. When he is called upon to help with anything, you can count on him saying, “They’re my kids/wife, of course I’m gonna be there!” Josh made it a point to be a father that is truly present and is someone his children and grandchildren, in all of their diversity look up to. He is a beloved abba, sabba and a helluva husband!
Rachel Weinstein, Beit Shemesh, Israel
I wanted to tell you about my husband Elie. The best word I can use to describe his parenting is selfless. We have three sons, no daughters, so the need for a male role model is very important. Elie’s mom passed away when he was 20. She was the epitome of chesed as she started Bikur Cholim in Staten Island. Elie has dedicated his life to following in her footsteps and dedicates his life to the family and the community. He brings our boys into his world for two reasons. Firstly is because his full-time job is, among other things, is running a kosher food pantry. He recognized that teaching the boys to volunteer and give back is an amazing life lesson. Secondly, he often works late hours and has very little time to see them during the day so he invites them to work with him to spend time together.
On nights when Elie knows he has to work late, he will come home just to say good night to the kids and then go back to work. He feels their pain, their joy, their struggles, their successes. I’ll never forget when my oldest son had a camp trip to Hershey Park, a 3 hour drive. My son was going through a phase where he was fearful of getting on a school bus and the bus left without him. My husband should have taken him home however when he saw the regret on my son’s face, I knew what my husband was going to do. He called out of work and drove 6 hours to and from the park so my son could enjoy his day. This did not surprise me at all. His dedication to his children is limitless. He wrestles with them, teaches them to play sports, learns with them, plays games with them and gives me breaks when I have had enough. He is such a great dad and I look forward to having more children with him to raise together.
Rachel Bodner, Elizabeth, NJ
My husband is a true super dad. He was born in Kew Gardens Hills, NY to Sara and David – both Polish Holocaust survivors. When he was 15 he went to Israel on a summer program and ended up staying to finish high school there. After graduation, he joined the IDF and spent three years as a paratrooper. We met when I was on a gap year program- it was love at first sight! We now have five children. Our oldest, Yossi spent two years in a yeshiva after high school and then joined the IDF- he’s in Handasa Kravit. I think my husband’s proudest day as a father was the day he enlisted! Last January he spent a month with Yossi and our second son Yishai, who is in his second year of Yeshiva in Israel.
When Lar was 30 he wanted a change from his job as a high school administrator at a Jewish school and enrolled in PA school at Touro. We had three little ones at the time ages 3, 1 and a half and a newborn. My image from those crazy years in Larry holding a textbook in one hand and a baby in the other. He has become an outstanding medical provider in the Emergency Room. He worked first at intense Elmhurst Hospital and then when we moved to North Carolina, a busy ER here. He took leaving his native New York well, even though he left all his friends and family so we could help care for my mom, who has MS. He’s selfless like that.
Lar works ten to twelve-hour shifts- now under especially crazy and dangerous circumstances with the COVID- 19 outbreak and never complains. He comes home to be fully present with our children. Whether he is playing backgammon with our first grader or filling out financial aids forms for our senior in high school- he does it all. Did I mention he’s also a loving dog dad to our Boston Terrier?
Larry is a foodie. He is a phenomenal chef and people call a month before Succos trying to secure a spot at our table! He remembers all of our guests’ favorite foods and they are always on the menu for them. When we get a call to house out of town guests, his first question is,” do they have any food allergies?”
When people move to Charlotte they call on him to find out where to find specific Kosher ingredients. On special occasions, our kids get their favorite foods lovingly prepared by their abba. We don’t have a Kosher restaurant here but haven’t missed out at all on delicious kosher food! Kosher sushi, pizza, sliders- no problem; their father always finds a way!
As a father Larry is loving and caring- he has high expectations for our four boys and one girl, and boruch Hashem they have lived up to them. I can’t imagine a finer father and I am so proud of him!
Rachel Berendt, Charlotte, NC
Bentzy Hoffman (on the left in the glasses) is a father of four and lives in Woodmere. Bentzy stays up late nights to help cook, clean and organize the house. He does a lot of shopping, and readies the house for Pesach each year. He takes his kids to minyan whenever he can to give my sister in law a break. He plays outside with his kids, takes my nephews to father learning nights, and is always sending pictures of his kids’ achievements. He will arrange his work schedule to work from home to make sure he can attend every event his kids have in school and doctors’ appointments. He learns weekly (has semicha) and helps our parents out immensely with grocery shopping, errands and around the housework, and had gone above and beyond once social Isolation began.
Avi Hoffman (on the right) started a Jewish outreach organization in Westchester county with my sister-in-law and another family. He is a father of five and they live in white plains. Avi does the majority of the night feedings and wakes up with the kids so my sister in law can get a break. (His teaching sessions for Kiruv are often at night so my sister in law needs the mornings off.) He is a master griller, smoker and chef. He is an assistant principal of a school, and still does carpool for his kids. He’ll often take his kids out for a drive, errands, etc so my sister in law can work in peace. His schedule for work and learning is always set so my sister in law can do what she needs to do. Avi is constantly on the go with his kids, playing with them and teaching them. As a Kiruv Rav, he instills so many valuable lessons to his kids.
They are both terrific fathers, husbands and sons.
Sandy Adler, West Hempstead, NY
My husband and I both work full time. I am a nursing consultant and my husband does nonprofit development. Since the stay-at-home orders have begun, everyone’s lives have been upside down. In our house we are lucky enough to have a home office but it only really works for one of us and the other is relegated to the dining room table.
Due to the nature and rigors of my job, I typically go into the office 5 (sometimes 6) days a week at 7 AM and usually don’t leave until 4:30PM. The result is my husband has been forced to assume the following roles: Development Director at Camp Nageela Midwest (his job for which he is under immense pressure as all camp professionals are right now), Kindergarten Teacher (Hebrew and English), nursery morah for our 4-year-old, and full-time entertainment for a 2-year-old. (oh and lunch chef).
This may come as a surprise to many but to us it certainly isn’t. Back when I was a nursing student in NYU before our oldest daughter was born, my husband would drive me to the express bus at 5:45 AM every day to make my commute to the city a little easier. The following summer when our oldest daughter was born, my husband became the babysitter in chief while I took summer classes. Everyday when I got home at around 4 PM he would go straight the bais medrash at Lander College for Men and learn for 3 hours (after getting up at 5:45 and babysitting all day). Nowadays, being that his job allows more flexibility than mine, he runs all the errands from morning carpool, to doctors’ appointments to everything in between.
This crisis has certainly been a life-altering experience for many. For us, however, it has served as the ultimate reminder of how lucky we are as a family to have him as our anchor.
Malka Bogopulsky, Chicago, IL