He was the rosh yeshivah, privy to details others didn’t know. But it was information he couldn’t share, and information he wouldn’t share
he meeting at Dr. Garvey’s home had gone nicely. The doctor had insisted they sit down and listen to his lecture about Modena history: he wanted them to appreciate the significance of the hotel building they now occupied, and recalled for them, in great detail, various celebrities who’d dignified the building with their presence. Once, he said, lifting himself off the couch to share this, Robert F. Kennedy had made a campaign stop at the old bar and grille in the hotel’s lobby. It was his dream to have Bernie Sanders pass through the town and he had all sorts of ideas about how he could work along with the yeshivah. Sholom Wasser had watched Shuey Portman nod eagerly, as if he shared the very same dream.
The meeting had been pleasant and it had been a small victory, but the lingering sense of frustration — he, the rosh yeshivah, had dropped the ball and it had taken Shuey Portman to help him figure it out — remained, threatening their relationship.
Shuey must have perceived this too, because he refrained from discussing any of the bochurim, as he normally would. Instead he told Rabbi Wasser about his difficulty in reaching the parents and how, for some reason, parents thought of tuition as a bonus, something they would deal with if they had extra money at the end of the month.
Where was the achrayus, he wanted to know, even though precisely six months earlier he’d given the wrong credit card number to the administrator at Shlomo Tzvi’s yeshivah, switching a digit, then pretended it was a mistake when they called to correct it. It had bought him two more weeks.
There was the added tension of the basketball net. The backboard had broken and Rabbi Wasser insisted that the boys needed their basketball court. Shuey didn’t disagree, but it was a question of priorities. He couldn’t keep going back to Avi Korman for money, he said, and Terrence had priced decent backboards at 1,500 dollars. Shuey maintained that they didn’t have the money, even though he also enjoyed seeing the boys playing a spirited ball game during bein hasedarim. He’d been pushing Rabbi Wasser off, hoping for a tuition breakthrough. When it was clear that the breakthrough wasn’t materializing anytime soon, Rabbi Wasser had finally given Shuey his own credit card and said, “Just please order the nets, the boys need to play. We’ll make the cheshbon a different time.” Rabbi Wasser had known it was the right thing to do, but for some reason Shuey hadn’t seemed so happy with his gesture.
The Monsey caterer had sent Sloppy Joe’s for supper, and there was ground meat pouring out of Shuey’s bun and on to the plate. Shuey was trying valiantly to control it with the flimsy off-brand forks he’d found at Dollar Tree in Newburgh as he absently mused, “What a pity we don’t have a single rich kid in this yeshivah, you know, a father I can call and say, ‘We need to pay for the paint job on the dorm.’ ”
Rabbi Wasser said nothing, but he felt a little rush of satisfaction — here was something he knew. He was the rosh yeshivah, privy to details others didn’t know. But it was information he couldn’t share, and information he wouldn’t share.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 800)
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