It is a real tragedy that Esti Weinstein felt that she had no choice but to take her own life. Several English sources wrote that Weinstein, “a 50 year old mother of seven was estranged from six of her children following her divorce and departure from the Gerrer (Gur) Hasidic community.”
However, the word “estranged” doesn’t begin to describe the reality of a mother who has been ostracized not only by her community, but by her own adult daughters.
Ostracism is a powerful and devastating weapon, and throughout history societies and their leaders have used it to put pressure on those who did not follow the rules. I feel that ostracism is actually a form of betrayal, since it treats the other as though he/she no longer exists
Outside the Haredi community, ostracism could be seen mainly among children in schools. Children who experienced it testify that it is far worse than physical abuse, since, with the latter, at least you know that you are being seen.
But actually it could also happen to anyone. I know the meaning of being ostracized since, for the last 7 years, I have observed it from a close distance. It often takes a trauma, such as death or divorce to break up a family. In the case of someone close to me, it was the death of his wife..
This topic is not discussed much in public, people are reluctant to acknowledge that their families are not perfect. Moreover, there is always the fear that if you admit being mistreated by your own family, it reflects badly on you. In a way, it is a variation on the silence of the victim.
Being ostracized doesn’t only affect the present — not being part of your children and grandchildren’s life, but it taints the memories of the past as well. The question “what did I ever do to deserve such a fate?” is always in the air. Parents who are being ostracized by their children find it painful to look at old photos or to see happy families and other people’s grandchildren.
This cruel punishment could ruin the future as well. In her letter Esti Weinstein wrote that she had hoped that her estrangement from her daughters was temporary and that with time they would come around. It means that for the last years she spent every day of her life waiting and hoping for her daughters to change their mind. That miracle did not happen, and when she finally realized that nothing was going to change she could not face the pain awaiting for her in the future.
Esti Weinstein chose to kill herself, and she wrote in her last note: “in this town I gave birth to my daughters, and in this town I die because of my daughters.” Most ostracized or estranged parents do not resort to such extreme measures. However it doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer. Some learn to live with the pain, others become so desperate that they give up on their new life, and their chance for happiness, in the hope of regaining the approval of their adult children. Just the other day, I heard about a man in a support group for widows and widowers, who ended a happy relationship with a fellow widow because his children threatened to ostracize him. This is how powerful this weapon is.
The fifth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you,” is the first, among the 10, that addresses inter-personal relationships, specifically the relationship between children and their parents.
This important commandment doesn’t require that adult children approve of their parents’ life choices but that they honor them. Esti Weinstein sanctimonious daughters failed their test in basic Bible comprehension. It is their fault that their mother is dead.
Let it be warning to all adult children who are callous and disrespectful to their parents.