“So, we all know why we’re here. To get Devoiry out of the clutches of the mob”
The phone was ringing, but Chava was too busy to answer it. Yitzi had just spilled his pasta all over Sari, and she was trying to retaliate by lobbing her own dinner at him. Chava was restraining Sari while Elisheva cleaned up the pasta.
Elisheva looked at her mother. “How in the world did you do this on your own when we were little?”
Chava shook her head. “I have no idea. I guess youth makes a difference.”
“Well, I’m young and these kids are hard.” Elisheva narrowed her eyes. “Any word from Devoiry on when she’s coming back?”
“Not yet.” Chava tried to keep her voice neutral, to mask her growing anxiety. You’d think a mother would want to check on her children at least once a day. But in the four days that they’d been here, Devoiry had called only once, and she’d sounded strained and eager to get off.
“I guess she and Avi are living it up on their vacation,” Elisheva said.
“It’s a business trip,” Chava said automatically.
Elisheva snorted. “Right. What do you wanna bet their ‘work’ involves relaxing in the Swiss Alps?”
If she hadn’t been so worried, Chava would’ve been tempted to laugh. (Why was it that had Devoiry made such a comment, Chava would have admonished her, but with Elisheva, she was able to admit it was funny?)
The phone rang again. Maybe it was Devoiry? Chava cautiously released Sari’s arms and ran to get the call.
She looked at the caller ID: Tirtza Strauss. Disappointed, she let the call go through to voice message. Chava didn’t have the headspace at the moment to consider job changes.
She’d already told Tirtza that her answer was probably no, but had been just wishy-washy enough for Tirtza to declare, “I’m going to give you another week or so to think about it.” She assumed Tirtza’s patience would only last so long; at some point, the job would be given to someone else.
Chava didn’t know if that would make her feel relieved or regretful; right now, she wasn’t up to such analyses. Her brow furrowed as her fears washed over her once more.
What was going on with Devoiry?
As soon as she entered the dorm lounge that evening, Tammy pulled ZeeZee aside.
“Nu, did you speak to her?” ZeeZee asked.
“Yup. We’re on!”
ZeeZee whooped, and Tammy quickly added, “But it has to be small. Devoiry was very uncomfortable with this idea. But, at the same time… she’s feeling desperate.”
Devoiry had been touched by the offer but also wary. “You said you’ll just ask a few people? It’s not going to be one of these stories that goes around all the frum news sites, right?”
Tammy had assured her it would be kept as small and as private as possible.
“But who would even be interested in helping me?”
“ZeeZee’s parents are very wealthy. She said she’s going to ask them. I think she’ll probably ask some of their friends as well. That’s all.”
In the end, Devoiry had agreed, though her voice had caught in her throat as she’d said, “I can’t believe I’ve become a tzedakah case.” And, “Why should other people pay for my dumb mistakes?”
Now, watching ZeeZee prance around, Tammy wondered if there was any way to convey this to her. She decided not to try.
“So, what’s the next step?” Tammy asked.
ZeeZee stopped jumping. “I’ve already been working on it. My sister Gitty agreed to take care of the technical side — y’know, set up a campaign site, figure out a way to accept the payments, all that stuff. I’m gonna call my father right now about matching the donations. I know he does that for other campaigns, so why shouldn’t he do it for my very own teacher?”
“Um, you’re going to tell him who it’s for?”
ZeeZee looked at her. “I mean, if I’m asking him to give, like, $75,000, I probably need to tell him who it’s for, no?”
Feeling dumb, Tammy quickly nodded. “Of course, you’re right. I wasn’t thinking.” Trying to regain her footing, she added, “Just as long as it doesn’t spread beyond this small campaign. That’s the main thing.”
“Of course not!” ZeeZee clapped her hands. “We better start right away. I’ll need some help, y’know, making phone calls, reaching out to people.”
“I don’t want a lot of people knowing about this,” Tammy felt the need to warn yet again.
“Oh, you don’t? Why didn’t you say so?” ZeeZee grinned so disarmingly that Tammy had to laugh.
“Okay, I’ll be quiet and trust you. But choose girls who can keep a secret.”
“I’ve already chosen them,” ZeeZee said. “Rusi, Ilana, and Dafna.”
“Rusi’s going to work with the Yad b’Yad girls?”
“Hey, Rusi’s cooler than you think. After being roommates this long, I must have rubbed off on her at least a little.”
Tammy laughed again. “Fine, keep me updated on how things are going. It should be with hatzlachah.”
ZeeZee’s face suddenly turned serious. “Amen!”
“ZeeZee, I really don’t like this,” Rusi whispered, as the two tiptoed downstairs. “Letting outside girls in at this time of night? We could get in such major trouble.”
“Relax,” ZeeZee whispered back. “I told you, Mrs. H. won’t get us in trouble over this. She knows why Dafna and Ilana are coming.”
“And it couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”
ZeeZee stopped at the bottom of the stairs, hands on her hips. “Rusi Sternfeld, if you saw someone lying on the street bleeding to death, would you say, sorry, I can’t help you ’cuz it’s after curfew?”
Rusi rolled her eyes, but remained silent as ZeeZee crept over to the front door and unlocked it, though she stole several nervous glances up the stairs.
ZeeZee had her head out the door. “Here they come.”
Ilana and Dafna stepped inside. Dafna had a wide grin on her face, while Ilana looked grimly determined.
“It’s not everybody I’d sneak out of my house for at midnight,” Ilana said as she sauntered inside. “My parents just might kick me out for this. D’you have an extra bedroom in your Brooklyn mansion?”
“I’ll give you your own wing,” ZeeZee said. “But it’s much more worth it to stay in Eretz Yisrael.”
Ilana smirked. “Just when I start to forget you’re a frummie seminary girl…”
Rusi led them into a side room, and ZeeZee locked the door from the inside, then pulled up a chair.
“So, we all know why we’re here. To get Devoiry out of the clutches of the mob.”
Ilana shook her head. “I still can’t believe it.”
“Yeah, it’s terrifying,” ZeeZee agreed. She looked at the three girls. “But remember, this is a huge secret. Mrs. H. said I could tell you, but you absolutely can’t share this story with anyone else. Not even under torture. Not even if someone offers you a billion dollars.”
“Sorry, sistah, but for a billion dollars, I’m gonna tell,” Ilana said.
“Hey, I’ll split it with you,” Dafna added.
Rusi looked alarmed. “Who’s going to torture us?”
ZeeZee sighed. “Forget it. Just keep it quiet, guys, ’kay?” She pulled out a notebook and pen from her purse. “So we need to think of ideas for how to reach out to people. I promised Mrs. Hurwitz we’d keep it small, so we can’t, like, post it all over Insta or anything. We can only ask people who know her personally and would want to help.”
Rusi frowned. “How are we supposed to know who knows Devoiry personally?”
ZeeZee shook her head. “You don’t get it. Not Devoiry. Mrs. Edelman. I thought we could reach out to the parents of her students.”
Ilana raised an eyebrow. “How’re you gonna do that without spilling the beans?”
ZeeZee considered. “Maybe we’ll just say that one of her family members is in an emergency situation. People can think what they want — medical crisis, whatever.”
Rusi was still frowning. “It sounds deceptive to me.”
But Dafna was nodding. “I think it can work.”
“Why stop at parents of students?” Ilana asked. “Doesn’t she have, like, thousands of alumni who are adults themselves, some of them probably rich adults? Let’s reach out to all of them!”
“All the alumni?” ZeeZee’s brow creased. “That’s a lot of people.”
“And 500,000 shekels is a lot of money.”
“You’re right.” A smile slowly spread on ZeeZee’s face. “Let’s go for it!”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 770)
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