| Dream On |

Dream On: Chapter 1 

This was her 31st year teaching, but her heart still quickened at the sight of this new group of young women, and the knowledge of what this year held in store for each of them


There’s nothing in the world like sunrise in Yerushalayim.

Tammy perched on the bare mattress in the dorm room, rubbed her burning eyes, and smiled as she saw the first rays of dawn glowing in the eastern sky.

A new day. A new year.

She pulled her gaze away from the window and back to the dorm room she’d been checking one last time. The girls should be landing in — she glanced at her watch — about an hour. Passport control, luggage, a short food break, and then onto the Kosel… that meant the girls should be arriving at the dorm in, what? Five hours? Nervously, she opened a closet door, running a finger over one shelf. It came up clean. Everything had to be perfect.

Tonight, these closets would be lined with clothing, the rooms filled with chattering, excited, apprehensive girls, wondering what the year had in store for them. And she, Tammy, would play a role in that year!

Satisfied with her inspection, she reached into her big shopping bag and pulled out three cellophane-wrapped mini baskets filled with chocolate chip cookies. Placing one on each bed, together with a welcome note, she stepped back, threw one last smile at the glowing window, and walked out.

She yawned as she passed through the lounge area. One of the couches had stuffing peeking out of the left cushion, and she briefly considered running home for a sewing kit; why should the girls be greeted by a ripped sofa?

As she stood there wavering — her own apartment was still filled with so many boxes, she had to inhale to squeeze through the living room, and sleep did need to happen at some point — she was startled by her phone’s ringtone.

At six in the morning? Who…? She located her pocketbook on the floor next to the ripped couch and grabbed her phone.

A baby was wailing on the other end.

“Tammy?” Yehuda’s voice cracked with early-morning hoarseness. “Where in the world are you?”

She blinked. “Uh, I’m still in the dorm. Getting things ready.”

“You mean you’ve been there all night?”

Her shoulders tensed. “I’m coming home now. Be there in five.”

“Good, ’cuz someone wants you really badly,” her husband grumbled as Shimmy shrieked in the background.



ZeeZee pushed her laden luggage cart past customs as she chattered to the girl walking beside her.

“You’re also in Shvilei, right? I’m so pumped about this year, aren’t you? What’s your name? Miriam? I’m ZeeZee, nice to meet you. No, my real name’s Zahava, not that it matters, no one even knows that. Seminary’s gonna be awesome, all my sisters went to Shvilei — I’m the seventh girl in my family, lucky me, huh? — and they all said it was the best year ever!”

ZeeZee paused for breath as they walked through the doors and into the crowded entrance hall, and stood in place for a moment, her eyes wide as she took in the scene: seminary girls, Israelis, tourists, waves, shouts, greetings, hugs, and up above, balloons bobbing at the top of the cavernous ceiling.

“Hey, ZeeZee, I think we’re supposed to go there.” Miriam nudged her and pointed at a teacher holding up a sign reading, “Welcome Shvilei Bracha.” Girls were already gathering around her.

But ZeeZee didn’t hear her. She was scanning the crowd eagerly. Suddenly, her eyes brightened and she clutched Miriam’s elbow.

“Do me a favor, ’kay? Can you watch my stuff for a second?”

“Um, don’t you think we should go—”

“Thanks!” ZeeZee darted off into the crowd, her head swiveling back and forth until she found the person she’d spotted earlier: a dark-skinned lady wearing a white turban and a blue-and-orange tunic over a long, flowing white skirt. She was standing next to an older woman, probably her mother. ZeeZee slowed down as she approached, trying to decide the best way to start this conversation.

“Hey, shalom?”

The turban lady looked up and gave her an inviting smile. “Shalom.”

“Ani, um, rotzah lada’as eich, um, laleches leYerushalayim?”

ZeeZee was pretty proud of her completely Hebrew sentence, but the lady gave her a quizzical look.

“You want to go to Jerusalem?” she asked in heavily accented English.

“Yes. I’m learning there for the year, in seminary. Do you live in Yerushalayim, by any chance?”

“I’m sorry, I live in Elon Moreh.”

“Elon Moreh? Cool! I’ve always wanted to go there!” ZeeZee flashed the lady a smile. “Hey, would you mind if I’d come for Shabbos — um, Shabbat — sometime this year?”

The turban lady shrugged, her lips curving upward in amusement. “B’simchah.”

ZeeZee’s eyes gleamed; Israelis were the coolest. She took out her phone — her new kosher phone that she’d bought for seminary — and prepared to type in her first contact. “What’s your name?”

She entered Mazal Nissim’s number, thanked her, and ran off in excitement. Elon Moreh. She’d never heard of the place and made a mental note to look it up.

Just before ZeeZee reached Miriam and her luggage cart, she stopped and pulled out a piece of paper from her purse. On the top was written, in big, bold letters, 27 Totally Awesome Chavayot That You’d Better Not Come Home from Israel Until You’ve Done.

With a flourish, she put a big check next to number one: Snag a Shabbos invite from a random stranger in Ben Gurion airport.


Chava had very nearly decided not to go to the Kosel today, which, now that she was here and looking up at the beloved stones, made her feel deeply ashamed.

Yesterday, talking it over with her husband, she’d felt almost noble in her refusal.

“If Rabbi Freund thinks it’s better for a different teacher to take the girls, I’m not going to stand in his way.”

At Shloime’s skeptical look, she’d insisted, “No, really. I’ve been the one to greet the girls by the Kosel for the past 20 years. But I understand if he thinks it’s time to give someone else the chance. Maybe Shira Litwin can give over a special perspective to the girls that I don’t have.”

The words had sounded fake, even to her own ears. Chava’s introductory speech had been honed to perfection over the years: inspiring the girls to appreciate the holiness of the place, throwing in some powerful Midrashim, encouraging them to take advantage of the year and come as often as they could. It was a beautiful way to start off their seminary experience, she’d always thought.

But, apparently, the 25-year-old Shira Litwin had a better way to do it.

Feeling Shloime’s eyes on her, she’d blushed. No, she wouldn’t be bitter.

“Why can’t you go along anyway?” he’d asked. “I thought a bunch of the staff members do.”

“Oh, but that would be so awkward—” she’d started. And then realized no one would feel awkward except for herself. And maybe Rabbi Freund.

So here she was. Standing on the periphery of the circle that Mrs. Litwin had formed in the back of the Kosel plaza, she listened as, one by one, girls shyly, haltingly, shared their thoughts on how it felt to be sitting by the site of the Beis Hamikdash, and what they hoped to accomplish this year.

Chava frowned slightly as she watched. There was no impassioned description of the tears of generations clinging to the stones, like she usually gave. This was different. But she had to admit, the girls seemed to be engaged — despite the fact that they’d just gotten off the plane a few hours ago.

She let her eyes drift around the circle. Sixty-two girls were seated here — girls who, right now, were jet-lagged and befuddled, but who were, she knew, about to embark on the greatest year of their lives. This was her 31st year teaching, but her heart still quickened at the sight of this new group of young women, and the knowledge of what this year held in store for each of them.

Turning her head away, she gazed ahead of her at the Wall rising to the Heavens, and sent up her own whispered tefillah:

Please, Hashem, let this be a year of growth for these girls — and for all of us.

to be continued…

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 719)

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