I decided to ignore the stares.
Young chareidi mother (toddler, newborn, and black circles under her eyes) sitting together in Waffle Bar with secular girl (blonde-black hair, torn jeans, nose ring). I guess Sivan and I did look pretty incongruous.
But though I decided to ignore them, Sivan didn’t.
“Why do people stare at us like that?” she suddenly burst out. “So what if we dress differently?”
I looked at her, taken aback at her sudden outburst. She took a deep breath, then explained, “You know I live in a frum neighborhood, right?”
Years ago, Sivan’s parents bought an apartment in a secular neighborhood. Over the past decade, frum people began moving in. Today, it’s 90 percent frum. What was Sivan getting at?
“Last year, when my mother was out of things” — I knew her mother was battling cancer — “no one in the building made us a meal. Nothing, not even soup. But when my neighbor had a baby, the whole building delivered meals for three weeks.”
Sivan fiddled with her salad.
“My mother was sick and she felt like no one cared. And why? Because she wears pants? Because she doesn’t cover her hair? Every other day an ambulance arrived. The neighbors saw the paramedics. They saw my mother being carried into the ambulance. And no one offered even a container of soup.”
Sivan shook her head and I could see the pain in her eyes. “It’s not fair that people judge others by what they wear. It’s just not.”
For days, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sivan’s story. I told it over to my friend Chaya. Chaya told me that when she heard that a new neighbor moved down the block, she decided to take over a cake. The new neighbor was thrilled.
A few days later, Chaya met the new neighbor’s teenage daughter in the grocery store. She thanked Chaya for the cake, and when Chaya waved away the thanks, she persisted. “My father recently left us. That’s why we had to move. My mother is struggling to keep everything together. It’s really hard. When you came by to visit with your cake, you made her smile.”
I felt a little better after Chaya told me her story, but I still had a bad taste in my mouth whenever I thought about Sivan and her experiences.
And then my friend Inbar from Rishon L’Tzion called me in a panic.
“My colleague’s getting married tonight in Bnei Brak. I need a skirt to wear to the wedding.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 619)