Encore: Chapter 60| January 6, 2021
Avi Korman believed in clean breaks, and he knew what he had to do
Avi Korman pulled up and parked in front of the long, low hotel building just like he had six months earlier. He slid into his usual space, feeling a sense of clarity and calm he hadn’t felt in a while.
This time he was more determined than he had ever been before, even more than when he’d first come to set up the yeshivah.
Then, he’d been filled with dreams about what the future would bring. Now, he knew what he wanted.
What he wanted was to be done with this whole parshah. It was his mess, and he would clean it up. The yeshivah was a nice try, and Rabbi Wasser had shown his abilities. Dovi was learning well and he was clearly very happy, and that was a nice thing. But the commitment was too much.
“What is it, Avi,” Faigy had asked him last night, “you can’t handle that it’s not a winner? You need the yeshivah to be like Riverdale within six months or you’re out?”
He didn’t love the question, so instead of answering, he said, “Riverdale? Pshhhh… Faigy, name-dropping yeshivos like a boss.”
She smiled and looked away, which is what she did when she felt like she was right. Avi didn’t think she was. It wasn’t about success and failure, but about being able to gauge the future and having good instincts.
Early on, when he had been at QManage, he had been the first partner to see that the new RentRoll Software would make their service obsolete, and when he had told the others it was time to cut their losses and move on, they had all called him an alarmist and suggested that he relax. But he had been right, of course, and until today, Blindman called him a navi and thanked him every time they met.
Faigy didn’t get instincts. He could have explained to her that just like she didn’t have to use a measuring spoon every time she cooked because she already had a feel for what was needed, he had that same kind of feel for communal stuff. But she would have made a face and told him he was such a man.
But that’s what it was. Good instincts.
The yeshivah had been a nice concept, but he’d been hasty and hadn’t thought it through at the time. There would never be a kollel here. It wasn’t sustainable for rebbeim to live in Modena alone, and it was too far for a daily commute. The yeshivah had a nice vibe, and the boys were learning okay, but Avi Korman didn’t see a justification for it anymore.
He had wanted Rabbi Wasser to have a job, and that had worked out nicely. Portman was adequate, though he was no superstar — just the type of guy who would bounce around from one low-level job to another for years. Dovi was having a good zeman, and maybe now they could put him in a real yeshivah, one that people had heard of — shidduchim came at you fast these days.
Avi Korman believed in clean breaks, and he knew what he had to do.
“So here’s the thing.” Rabbi Wasser looked past Shuey Portman for a moment, then refocused. “I think I know who your secret donor is.”
Shuey Portman blinked, then sat up straight.
“For real? Tell me, tell me, tell me.” He leaned in.
“But wait, there’s a catch. I’m not sure it’s such good news.”
“Rabbi! Please tell me,” Shuey tried to adopt a joking tone, but he was clearly anxious.
“It’s Pinchos Bass, I’m certain of it, and l’maiseh, I feel like it’s about to dry up.”
Shuey Portman closed his eyes, then shook his head. “Pinchos Bass? Huh? Shlomo’s father, the English guy? Come on. He came here once, and I never even heard from him since, the stepfather handles tuition. What shayachus?”
Rabbi Wasser shrugged. “I don’t know. I called him yesterday stam. You know, I do these updates for the fathers just to be in touch, and he was like all excited about the song.”
It was quiet for a moment, and Sholom kept talking to avoid the discomfort. He was not going back to the song thing now.
“And I could tell in how he was talking that he had a secret — and then I chapped that he was the guy.”
Shuey exhaled. “So what’s the catch?” he asked.
“The zach is that he’s in it for the music,” Rabbi Wasser said. “He thinks it’s good for his son. So once that sort of thing ends, I’m not sure how l’maiseh it is to expect his help, you know?”
“Rosh Yeshivah.” Shuey Portman didn’t always refer to Rabbi Wasser that way. “Rosh Yeshivah, we need to move past this. I’m sorry about the song, it doesn’t make a difference anymore if it’s a good idea or a bad idea, you’re the rosh yeshivah, not me. If you don’t like it, then it’s a bad idea. Period. We don’t have to debate it anymore.”
“It’s not that I don’t like it,” Rabbi Wasser protested, “it’s just that at this time, in this place, I don’t know…. It’s fuhrt a yeshivah. It’s not what we’re trying to build here. I do see the results and the toeles, I know the bochurim enjoyed it and all that, but at the end of the day…” Rabbi Wasser stood up and walked around the table. “Yeah, I guess it’s that I don’t like it. I appreciate that we’re finally talking this out.”
Penina liked to say one honest conversation could take care of ten fights and she was right. Very right.
“And the other thing I was going to say,” Shuey continued, “is that I feel bad about losing Pinchos Bass, his money has been carrying us, but I’m not sure it makes a difference anymore.” He moved the window shade an inch and squinted. “Look, Avi Korman is parking right now. He’s coming to meet with you, yes?”
Rabbi Wasser nodded. “Yes, he said it was very important. We’re in the middle of such a complicated sugya now, I—”
“Yeah,” Shuey said bluntly, “well, he wants to suggest that you shut the place down, and take a job somewhere else. He bit off more than he can chew, starting a yeshivah, and even though he’s sort of off the hook, he feels bad and wants to undo the whole thing. I hope you’re ready for that.”
Rabbi Wasser looked startled and peered out the window over Shuey’s shoulder.
“B’emes? That’s what he wants?”
Shuey turned to face him and nodded. “Yep. What are you going to do?”
Rabbi Wasser met Shuey’s gaze. “I have no idea. Why, what are you going to do?”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 843)
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