Questions about Jewish etiquette

Minna Rae Friedman

By Minna Rae Friedman, Special to Chicago Jewish News

Dear Minna Rae,
     It’s after holiday-Chanukah time again and the children have received many lovely gifts. As usual, the ‘thank you’ question arises again. Is email o.k.? Or is a ‘written’ note required? Naturally, we all disagree. Can you help us solve this problem?
Difference of Opinion

Dear Differences,
     This is a subject that always comes up when gifts are received. It doesn’t matter how old anyone is, the differences are there in how to handle it. Since I am still of the ‘old school’, I think if someone has gone to the effort and cost of sending a gift, a written thank you note is best and certainly much appreciated. The young ‘electronically aged’ of today, think an email is adequate.

     I think the young ones can send their peers an email, but us ‘oldsters’ would really appreciate a written thanks. I personally, gift young people with note cards with their names imprinted and that seems to encourage more of them to write notes. Some parents restrict the usage of a gift until after a thank you note has been sent. (a good idea.)

Dear Minna Rae.
    My apartment-condo looks fine. Place for everything, but I have a lot of things, although I am not a hoarder.  As I am getting older, I think another type of dwelling is in my future, retirement home or some such. I don’t know what to do with everything now. I know, when I am gone, the kids will have a HUGE job. What can I do now, to keep me happy and with fewer things if I have to move?
Not a hoarder     

Dear Not a Hoarder,
    You ask a very pertinent question that many have. Uncluttering seems to be in the news lately. Some people begin by giving to their family or friends, their items now, as gifts, instead of waiting for their demise. These would be those things that are meaningful and meant to be kept in the family, but you don’t use them anymore. Check with local community centers or retirement homes for names of some professional ‘declutterers’. Some resale shops will even give you a percentage of the sale of your donated items. Be sure to check with local veteran’s organizations about Veterans’ Closets where you could take clothing, electronics or anything to donate, get a tax deduction and veterans and their families shop free. This is my favorite give-away place. They can outfit needy vets and their families with household items, clothing and anything for the male and female family members as well as the children. I am packing a box of outgrown toys as I write this. Vets pay nothing for any items they shop.

Dear Minna Rae,
     It will be a while before our first child arrives, but my husband and I are ‘discussing’ names and trying to be calm and respectful, but we can’t seem to agree. Have you heard of any ways that couples select names for their children.
In a Quandry

Dear Quandries,
     There are probably as many ways a name is selected as there are expectant parents. Young people today seem to do things their own way, but there is a traditional method that many Jewish parents choose… that is to name the children after family members who have passed away. We did this when our daughters were born. Each has a first and middle name. One name is from my family, and one name is from my husband’s family. My name, I was told, was from Minucha (from mother’s side) and Rasha (from father’s side). Mom insisted I always use both names (Minna Rae) as she didn’t like the nicknames for my first name. Hope this helps some.

Dear Minna Rae,
     In putting together our special celebration guest list for a several decade anniversary, we are confronted with several family members who really don’t get along. They are usually vocal and a little physical if they happen to be in the same company. We get along with them all and would really want them all to share our special day, but are afraid to have them all ending up at our affair. Some wouldn’t even come if they knew the others were attending. HELP!

Dear Helpless,
     So sorry to hear of your predicament. It seems to happen occasionally in families, not only yours.  As far as them attending or not if the others are there, you can just offer your invitation to all whom you want to attend and let them decide if they will come or not. If you find that both sides of this feud plan on attending, you may want to alert both sides and tell them that you are so glad they will be able to share your special day and to please help you have a great day, and to please avoid the other family members at this event. Good luck and if you have a seating plan, it would be easier to have them seated far from each other and would be more relaxing for you.

Minna Rae Friedman was a wedding and event coordinator for more than 20 years. Questions can be submitted to her at

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