Publisher : Shaar Press, division of Artscroll Publishing

Release date:  June 3, 2019

 Reviewed by Rebecca Sapir        

We often see the widow who lives in the house on the corner as she goes out to shop; the divorcee with three little boys in  the apartment next door;  the two young women who share an attic, who walk by on their way to work. They are all going about their daily lives. But what are the challenges they face, what are their feelings, their anxiety? For the moment we smile -------, perhaps issue an invitation to come sometime for a Shabbos  meal or just exchange pleasantries as we pass on the street.

What are the thoughts and feelings of these women? “I was just widowed and I feel lost . My husband handled the car and the insurance and the mortgage and I paid the bills — but balancing the checkbook, making sure there was enough in the bank for the car payment — I never really thought about that. And I’m so lonely; I can’t get used to the silence.” A  woman with young children wonders in dismay, “Succos is coming, who will take my son to dance in the circle? ” The single woman living alone may be thinking, “It’s Thursday night, should I buy something for Shabbos since no one has invited me yet? But maybe I’m relieved to avoid another meal  watching someone else’s toddler or of pitying glances from my hostess and her assurances that, if I would just be more open-minded ….”

Can anyone understand the challenges these women face? Are they alone in their feelings and fears? How can they understand  this as part of Hashem’s plan? These and so many other issues facing women on their own are addressed in this new and important book, On My Own…But Not Alone, by Ahava Ehrenpreis. Scheduled for release on June 3rd and published by Shaar Press, a division Artscroll.  This unique volume addresses the above issues and many others that face women on their own.

The underlying question is often, why do I deserve this pain and frustration?. “Should I feel guilty for resenting the women around me, who seem to have the perfect marriage, the perfect family, who are so busy shopping and cooking and planning Yom Tov? It seems as if their only challenge is how many kugels they have to make or shopping for  their children.” Or the widow who thinks, “How could I have planned better to be financially secure? We were going to plan for our golden years but somehow there was never time to actually go to a lawyer and find someone to help us arrange our finances.”

Mrs. Ehrenpreis began this endeavor after facing many of these issues herself widowed after many years of marriage, she found herself dealing with areas for which she felt highly unprepared. Feeling very strongly that that there should be a way to spare other women from a similar scenario, she decided to compile a guide for women and couples to prepare for these eventualities. She then realized that though particular circumstance may differ, many of the same challenges faced divorced women and even singles. Our society stresses the value and importance of a couple, of family, of building and maintaining a family, celebrating Shabbos, Yamim Tovim. The psychological and emotional impact of these stresses on women on their own can be devastating.

The book is divided into sections, including Spiritual Sensitivity, Emotional Sensitivity, Halachic Sensitivity, Day to Day Sensitivity, each with an introduction by the author. Issues that women on their own must deal with are addressed by experts in the field. Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Rabbi Henoch Plotnik, Rebbetzin Leah Kohn ,Rebbetzins Aviva Feiner and Esther Reisman address the hashkafic challenges that face the woman on her own, understanding her role in our very family-oriented society and coming to terms with life, far different than once envisioned. Renowned psychologists Dr. Norman Blumenthal and Dr. Perella Perlstein, and therapist, Mrs. Esther Moskovitz, deal with the psychological impact of being single and provide coping mechanisms.

“I am eating at my friend on Friday night, where should I light candles? My husband always made Kiddush and Havdalah; now that I am alone, what should I do? Do I need to buy my own  lulav and esrog?” The answers to these and other halachic issues are discussed by recognized poskim, Rabbi Doniel Neustadt and Rabbi Henoch Plotnik who provide a reference point for so many of these issues, though the author stresses that everyone needs a rav to deal with individual questions. Also included is a basic guide, with overviews for each Yom Tov as it impacts  women, which should be helpful to any woman, whatever her status.

A frum woman lawyer, Louise E, Lipman, an expert in the field, offers guidelines and a checklist of issues and topics, especially important for married couples as well women on their own to protect themselves  and their assets.  While financial planner, Mr. Alan Eisenstein, offers advice applicable to everyone..

Most powerful are the stories told by the women themselves. Marked by a “Women’s Voices” icon, these are the personal narratives of women, whether widowed, divorced, or not yet having met their bashert. The individual stories’ impact on the reader is extraordinary. In her own words, each woman tells a story, unique in its details, sharing the emotional issues, the coping techniques, and ultimately, her incredible emunah, finding ways to live with joy and fulfillment.. These women speak out to help other women cope, but they also express how society at large can be exceptionally kind but also, inadvertently, unkind.  In these narratives, written by widows, divorcees, and singles, of different ages, geographical location, and circumstances, a woman on her own can find validation, as well as coping mechanisms and strategies from others who have faced similar circumstances and found ways to survive and even flourish. We hear from young mothers, who with little or no warning have to deal with their own loss and their children’s loss as well. Older women left to cope, not wishing to be dependent on married children but feeling isolated and frightened. Women dealing with years of a failing, difficult marriage, sublimating their own wounds to nurture and trying to raise happy, emotionally stable children. Accomplished women, successful in their professional careers, waiting, wanting to find someone with whom to build a home and family of their own.

Simultaneously, the selections can sensitize all of us to greater degrees of awareness.  Have we thought to offer a  woman on her own a ride to a simchah or asked if she needed something from the store?  Perhaps what we say may be painful or intrusive. Have we unthinkingly insinuated that perhaps someone is single because she did not take our suggestion for a particular match?

To quote Rabbi Yaakov Bender in his letter of approbation “Mrs. Ehrenpreis has presented in this book..amazing wisdom how to navigate the system...We salute and thank her for this valuable work.”   But it also a book that  everyone who knows a  woman on her own should read and absorb. We can cry and we can celebrate as each woman rises to meet the challenges Hashem has given her. We can all gain in our emunah and be humbled by the heroism of these women as they deal with and accept the plan given them by their Creator.

The Epilogue addressed to all of us  is an overview of what society at large can do as individuals to understand and show these women that  though they may be on their own … they are never alone.

By: Ahava Ehrenpreis