| Dream On |

Dream On: Chapter 21 

"I’m not sure if ZeeZee would be interested. I mean, her family’s seriously rich; it’s not as if she needs to earn her pocket money”


Anew week, a new start, Tammy thought, as she mixed spices into the chopped meat. Sunday dinners were usually leftovers, but Tammy had decided to make Yehuda’s favorite meatloaf recipe instead as a conciliatory offering.

She still wasn’t quite sure why things had deteriorated so badly last week, but she knew that she couldn’t let the atmosphere in their home remain so strained. It’s up to the woman, she repeated to herself, something she’d heard in all the shalom bayis classes she’d ever taken.

Her phone rang, and hands full of raw meat, Tammy pressed the Talk button with her elbow.

“Rikki! Three times in one week! You’re gonna spoil me here.”

Rikki laughed. “It was amazing spending time with you last night. But I actually just had a quick question. Can you get me the phone number of that girl we met at the Kosel?”

“ZeeZee? Sure. Why?”

“I’m looking for a babysitter for two afternoons a week. The center where I work has been begging me to put in more hours. I was really impressed with ZeeZee last night. What do you think of the idea?”

“Mmm, interesting.” Tammy washed her hands. “I’m not sure it’ll work, though. First of all, it absolutely can’t interfere with her class schedule. I’m already in hot water with Rabbi Freund.”

“Oh, of course not,” Rikki said quickly. “My work hours are flexible; I can work around her schedule.”

Tammy began peeling a potato. “Also, I’m not sure if ZeeZee would be interested. I mean, her family’s seriously rich; it’s not as if she needs to earn her pocket money.”

“I hear. But it can’t hurt to ask, right?”

Tammy frowned and sat down. Why was she so hesitant? There was nothing wrong with giving Rikki the phone number. She trusted Rikki; her family was great, and there was nothing in her home that could be a bad influence on a seminary girl.

So why was something niggling in her gut at the idea of ZeeZee becoming close to her old friend?

She heard the front door opening. Yehuda! He was home! She stood up hastily.

“Listen, Rikki, I gotta go now. I’ll call you later with her phone number. Hatzlachah!”

ZeeZee squinted at the small Rashi print on the page, trying to make sense of the words she was reading. Back before Succos, it had seemed like a good idea to choose Shiras Chanah for her Navi report. After all, her Navi teacher in 12th grade had spent, like, a bazillion weeks on the topic. Granted, ZeeZee had slept through much of it, but she’d reasoned, something must have stuck in her brain, no?

No, she was discovering now. And, unfortunately, it was the night before the report was due, after Mrs. Edelman had given her a final, final, final extension.

ZeeZee stretched her hands, and twisted her head toward Rusi, who had three seforim open on her desk and was scribbling away.

“What are you working on?” ZeeZee asked, eyes wide. “Didn’t you hand in your Navi report ages ago?”

“Dinim,” Rusi mumbled without lifting her head. “Mrs. Litwin’s assignment.”

“Wait, is that due tomorrow, too?” ZeeZee felt a sudden stab of panic.

“Next Wednesday. But there are, like, seven parts to it. It’s not the type of thing you can leave to the night before.”

“Hah. Watch me.” ZeeZee turned back to her Navi, rubbed her eyes, and then sighed. She glanced again at her roommate. “Hey, Rusi,” she said casually. “Didn’t you also do your report on Shiras Chanah? D’you think…”

“Wasn’t me. Shani.”

“Oh, right.” ZeeZee frowned. Shani hadn’t been hanging around much in the room recently. ZeeZee didn’t know if she was avoiding them on purpose or what, but something was sketchy. Either way, Shani didn’t seem likely to let her copy parts of her Navi report at the moment.

ZeeZee’s phone rang, and she brightened at the distraction. “Hello?”

“Hi, ZeeZee, this is Rikki Klein. I’m Tammy Hurwitz’s friend. We met last night at the Kosel…”

“Sure!” ZeeZee’s eyes widened in surprise. She’d seemed cool, Mrs. H.’s friend. ZeeZee hadn’t been able to get out of her mind the way she’d asked whether she had any experience with kiruv.

“Hope you don’t mind my calling, but I was wondering if you’d be up for a job…”


Chava walked slowly toward the school library, flipping through the stack of Navi reports in her hands. She flinched as someone knocked into her arm; turning, she saw Shira Litwin mouth an embarrassed “sorry” as she hurried past.

Chava used to be like that. In the earlier years when her children were young, she’d run straight out of the building the moment her last class was over, face taut, checking her watch, rushing to make it home before her kids did. There were preschoolers to pick up, lunch to serve, homework to help with… She wouldn’t even touch her students’ assignments until the late evening hours.

She watched Mrs. Litwin’s receding back. How had she pulled it off all those years?

She pushed open the door to the library and sat down at a table, breathing in the stillness. The girls were at lunch; she had an entire room of seforim, large windows, quiet… and all the time in the world to luxuriate in them.

Chava placed the pile of reports on the table and pulled off the one on top. Uncapping her purple pen… when her daughters began teaching, they’d informed her that red marks were too harsh for today’s generation — she began to read.

A sneeze from across the room broke her concentration. Startled, Chava looked around; she’d thought she was alone. Curiously, she stood up to see who else was in the library right now. She walked slowly through the rows of empty tables, and turned the corner around some bookcases.

Sitting in a window seat, a book hanging limply in her hand as she gazed into space, was Shani Mandel.

“Shani! Why aren’t you at lunch? Is everything okay?”

Shani startled at the sight of her teacher and sat up, her face red.

“Oh, hi, Mrs. Edelman. Everything’s fine. I’m just… um… not hungry right now.”

Chava stared at her. It was still the beginning of the year, and she didn’t know Shani all that well, but all of her long-honed teacher instincts were blaring right now. Something wasn’t right with this girl.

Chava sat down next to Shani. “Well, that’s lucky for me, I guess, because I’d been hoping to have a schmooze with you. How are things going for you so far? The beginning of seminary can be rough.”

Shani shrugged and shifted her eyes toward the window before looking back at Chava. “Things are fine. The classes are good.”

“I see you’re a great student. Your Navi report was outstanding.”

Shani flushed as a small smile flashed across her face.

Chava continued. “You’re from out of town, right?”

“Detroit,” Shani mumbled.

“So you must not have known too many girls coming in. That can be hard.”

Shani shrugged again.

Chava opened and closed the cap of the purple pen that she was still holding in her hand. Shani was a tough nut to crack. She’d had students like that in the past, and she knew how important it was for these reserved girls to have a teacher they were comfortable opening up to.

Trying to inject the right note of warmth into her voice, she said, “Lots of girls have trouble adjusting in the beginning, and it can be lonely until you find your chevreh, right? If you ever feel you want to talk out any issue, please feel free to come to me. I’m here and always happy to help.”

Shani nodded, gazing at the floor.


Chava peered at her. The girl’s face looked wan, and her skin was hanging on her cheeks as if she’d just lost a considerable amount of weight. Feeling more concerned than before, Chava asked carefully, “Is there any teacher here you feel you’re developing a kesher with?”

For the first time, a spark of life animated Shani’s eyes, as she looked up and said eagerly, “Yes. Mrs. Hurwitz, the eim bayit. I’m really close with her.”

Chava’s hand clenched around her pen. Tammy Hurwitz! Well, she supposed it was good that Shani felt comfortable with someone on staff. Still, there was something about the eim bayit that seemed… overeager. As if she needed the girls’ attention more than they needed hers.

Or was Chava just jealous? She closed her eyes. No, she hoped it wasn’t that.

Opening her eyes again, she smiled at Shani. “I’m so glad to hear.”

to be continued…



(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 739)

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