This past Sunday, Tzom Gedaliah, the Five Towns/Far Rockaway community was honored to host Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss of the Agudas Yisrael of Staten Island as the keynote speaker and presenter as part of a special Tzom Gedaliah program at Kneseth Israel, the White Shul. The program was coordinated and offered by the Five Towns Marriage Initiative. FTMI is going into its third year of existence helping to work on education of the entire community about issues relevant to family and marital harmony, with special lecture programs combined with breakout sessions; an ongoing free shalom bayis hotline, which has been up for almost a year, staffed by local therapists and helping to coordinate referrals; and financial assistance for those in need seeking to work with professional therapists on specific issues of shalom bayis.

This most recent program focused on themes of Aseres Yemei Teshuvah and working on the aspects of bein adam l’chaveiro–making sure to ask for forgiveness from our fellow man with clarity and emphasizing that spouses form the backbone for all we do in life. It is often said that to learn the measure of a person, don’t look at how they behave in public but in their home and with their spouse. Given the nature of the obligation to pursue peace and chesed, the very obligations we have to our spouses make these relationships more fraught with resistance to our best behavior, yet they are clearly the most deserving of such behavior.

The Five Towns Marriage Initiative has always worked closely with Shalom Task Force and Shalom Workshop–which constitute a separate organization that addresses abuse within marriage, both psychological and physical, and also offers recurrent workshops and educational programs to reach young men and women of marriageable age, newlyweds, and other couples. Mrs. Esther Friedman, director of women’s programming for Shalom Workshop, and Meir Rizel, director of men’s programming for Shalom Workshop, served as presenters for breakout sessions.

The community was also fortunate to hear directly from Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner, who spoke as part of the women’s breakout session prior to the event, and also Rabbi Eytan Feiner, who gave words of chizuk and introduction prior to the keynote from Rabbi Weiss. FTMI also extends thanks to Deb Schwarz Hirschhorn, Ph.D., who is a relative newcomer to the Far Rockaway/Five Towns community but brings decades of experience and expertise in marriage counseling and family therapy to help guide programming and assist with clinical services and hotline efforts.

Rabbi Weiss was able to address a number of questions from the crowd that gathered on the fast day in addition to hosting one of the breakout sessions, where he shared significant insights into how critical it is that we value our spouses and all of those we interact with on a daily basis. Audio and video of the shiurim will be available online or for purchase at or by calling 516-239-1800 and asking for Sue. Anonymous shalom bayis hotline services (offered Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, 10:00—11:00 p.m.) and referral information to local therapists in addition to questions and inquiries regarding financial assistance (and sponsorships) can be obtained by calling 516-430-5280. v


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