| Family First Serial |

For Granted: Chapter 38

Dini scowled. “Just because you’re in a bad mood doesn’t mean you need to take it out on me”


“Tzirelettes having their tea party today?” Shuki asked as he walked in from Shacharis and watched Dini spread plastic tablecloths over the dining room table.

Dini made a face. “Pottery painting.”

“What a beautiful chesed project.” He smirked.

She glared at him. “Make fun of me all you want. My CT girls have become an amazingly tight group, and it’s thanks to these activities.”

Shuki took a step back. “Hey, you’re the fundraising expert.”

Dini stared at him as he put his tallis bag down on the shtender (hello, did he not just hear that guests were coming soon?) and headed into the kitchen.

She followed him. “I’m the fundraising expert? This was your strategy, remember?”

His head was in the fridge. “I know. You just seem to be pouring a lot of money into this group.”

Dini blinked. “You have to invest in order to see returns. Any business knows that!”

Shuki turned around to look at her. “Obviously. But a business also needs a plan to cover all their expenses.”

Dini scowled. “Just because you’re in a bad mood doesn’t mean you need to take it out on me.”

Shuki opened his mouth, then closed it. He scratched the back of his neck. “Sorry,” he muttered.  He turned back to the fridge. “Hope you enjoy your party. I’ll be out of your way soon.”

But after Shuki left, Dini couldn’t help but acknowledge that his words had stung so much because they’d hit the mark. Until now, she’d been charging the CT events to her parents’ credit card, reasoning that Ma had offered to pay for their marketing, and wasn’t this volunteer club all about marketing their organization?

But she knew she couldn’t continue doing that forever. She needed to develop a clear fundraising strategy, and a network of people she could reach out to. She’d been kind of counting on Shuki for that… but seeing his attitude now, she wasn’t so sure.

Sighing, Dini picked up his tallis bag and brought it into the bedroom.

She was in the middle of arranging the platters of biscotti and muffins (see, Shuki, budget-friendly refreshments!) when her phone rang.

Bracha again. Dini raised her eyebrow. What message did Ayala have for her this time?

She frowned at herself. Not nice. Besides, she owed Bracha one; her advice about dealing with imposed situations on her own terms had been priceless.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“Baruch Hashem. Listen, I wanted to ask you something.” Was it her imagination, or did Bracha sound tense? Dini shook her head. She barely knew Bracha; she was probably just projecting from Shuki. “I’m working with a new client, Shoshi Kramer, who was just diagnosed with a brain tumor. The family could use some support.”

“Oy, how terrible,” Dini said softly. Working with Chesed Tzirel clients was always a good reminder that, despite her mini problems, she had nothing to complain about. “Of course. Give me her number and I’ll be in touch.”

Bracha gave her the information. “How does it work exactly? You’re the contact person for every single client getting support services?”

“I used to be. Now that I’ve created my volunteer network, I assign cases to our volunteers, and I oversee them all.” Dini lifted her chin as she spoke, smiling to herself. How professional did that sound? No, this wasn’t just about expensive entertainment for a bunch of kollel wives; she’d developed a brand-new operational model that was actually working!

“Nice. And you have volunteers in all the different locales? Like, in Beitar and Telz Stone and — and Ramat Beit Shemesh?”

“Not yet,” Dini said. “For now, I still coordinate those cases directly. But I hope to eventually branch out our volunteer network to include those other areas as well.”

“Got it.”

There was a short silence. Dini glanced at her watch. She didn’t really have time for a chat about their volunteer department; the ladies were due to arrive in a few minutes.

“Anyway,” she said, “tell Shoshi Kramer that I’ll be in touch shortly.”

“Okay. Um, can I ask you something else?”

Dini took a breath. “Sure.”

“My, uh, salary. Ayala told me I should be in touch with you about it. When can I expect to get it each month? And what paperwork do you need from me?”

Dini stopped short. Right. She’d forgotten.

“Yes, thanks for bringing that up. So in terms of paperwork, Ayala’s husband is the one to speak to about that. He takes care of our billing and accounting. And in terms of when….”

She rubbed her eyes. She needed to do some serious fundraising, seriously soon.

“You’ll get it at the beginning of each month.”

“OMG, is this not the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?” Sarale, sitting next to Dini, shrieked as she waved her painted bowl in the air. “Oooh, Dini, yours is so pretty!”

Penina, who had planted herself on Dini’s other side, leaned over to look. “Wow, you are sooo talented!”

Dini squirmed as she caught Chaya’s eyeroll from across the table. Yes, this adoring groupie thing was a bit much. Dini flashed a smile at the two of them and stood up. This activity was cute, but what she really needed was to figure out how she was going to raise the funds for Bracha’s salary. She’d lucked out with Adele Samson; the woman, bless her, was still depositing Ayala’s salary regularly each month. But who could she ask to sponsor Bracha’s?

Dini walked around the room, nodding and smiling at all the plates, mugs, and saltshakers as her mind raced. Maybe some of the young women in the room had wealthy relatives? Should she ask?

She frowned. She knew exactly what the reaction would be. Uncomfortable looks, and some tactless person saying aloud what they were all thinking: “I don’t get it. Don’t you have wealthy relatives?”

Yes, she had to admit, there was something ridiculous about this panic, considering how much access she and Shuki had to mega-wealthy people. But seriously, what was she expected to do?  Go through her parents’ contact list and send out solicitation emails? Ma would die of embarrassment.

There were her own brothers and sister.  They would certainly give if she asked. Sure, and then they’d have a whole family discussion about her.

“Isn’t it cute how Dini, with her little tzedakah organization, is playing at being a big-league fundraiser?”

“I’m not sure what exactly she’s using the money for — to, like, send an extra pie of pizza to a family for dinner? — but of course, I gave. Nebach, all alone there in Israel. I’m happy to sponsor her fun.”

Dini’s eyes narrowed. No, she would not lower herself by asking her brothers for tzedakah — and certainly not Eliana.

“Mrs. — uh, can I ask you something?”

Dini swiveled around. Faigy had walked over to where she was standing, next to the window. Sweet and quiet Faigy, who had a persistent habit of calling her Mrs. Blumenthal, no matter how many times Dini corrected her.

“Sure, what’s up?”

Faigy was twisting her diamond ring around her finger and her eyes darted to the side as if to make sure no one was listening. And suddenly, Dini had a sneaking suspicion about what she was going to ask.

“I, uh, heard that you do, like, shanah rishonah marriage mentoring?”

Dini was tempted to say no, because, let’s get real, she didn’t… except that she did.

“Mmm,” she said instead.

Faigy twisted her ring even faster. “So I was wondering if maybe you have an open slot? I mean, baruch Hashem, there’s nothing wrong or anything, but I think it would be so helpful to have a mentor to talk to, y’know?”

Dini’s eyes widened.

Faigy shifted awkwardly at Dini’s silence. “And, of course, let me know — I mean, I don’t know if there’s, like, payment involved—” She coughed, blushing.

Dini stared at her. An open slot? Payment? What did she think this was, a therapy session? Trying hard not to laugh, she said, “Let me check my schedule. I think I can fit you in.”

“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” Ayala muttered. “Why are you not picking up?”

Tziri and Layale, doing homework at the dining room table, raised their heads with a questioning look, but Ayala was too busy glaring at her phone to answer the look.

Exasperated, she dialed yet again. For the past hour, she’d been alternating between Ma, Ta, and Zev. Where was everyone?

Naftali walked in the door in time to see her let out a low scream of frustration and throw her phone on the couch. He raised his eyebrows.

“Is everything okay?”

“Ima’s upset that she can’t reach Bubby or Uncle Zev,” Tziri said.

Naftali walked over and picked up Ayala’s phone from the couch. He had a determined look on his face. “Mind if I take this for a little while?”

Ayala blinked. “Huh?”

“They’ll call you if there’s something you need to know,” he said firmly. “Right now, you’re just driving yourself crazy with anxiety for no good reason.”

Ayala stared at him for a moment, her mouth opening in protest. Then, suddenly, she sagged down onto the couch.  It was one thing to dismiss Bracha’s criticism, but when Naftali said the same thing, she could no longer ignore the truth.

She put her head in her hands. “It’s just too much for me,” she admitted. “I feel so guilty all the time.”

Naftali sat down next to her. “I know. But your guilt from afar isn’t helping anyone. Either fly in to be there in person or figure out how to turn the guilt off.”

She looked up. “Fly in? How could I? Leave the family, and Chesed Tzirel, and everything? Besides, it’s not as if my mother’s in a state right now that she needs me by her side—”

Naftali raised an eyebrow, smiling, and after a moment Ayala smiled back. “You got me.”

She looked down at her hands and sighed. She could do this. Standing up, she said, “Keep my phone for the night. I’m going to bed.”

Naftali gave her a thumbs-up. Proud of herself, Ayala waved goodnight to the twins. She’d almost made it out of the room when her phone rang.

She turned around as Naftali looked down at it — and then winced.

“Your brother,” he said.

She raced back to the couch and lunged for the phone.

“Zev! I’ve been trying you and Ma and Ta for so long and no one was answering! Is everything okay?”

There was a slight pause. “Don’t get worried, but Ma is back in the hospital. Her heart again. She was experiencing shortness of breath, and the doctors were worried. They want to keep her now for monitoring.”

Ayala clenched her jaw. She’d known something was wrong!

Your guilt from afar isn’t helping anyone.

She glanced at Naftali and took a breath. “Zev, I’m coming in.”


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 890)

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