| Family First Serial |

For Granted: Chapter 46

“A music video, huh? How trendy,” Bracha said sardonically. She raised an eyebrow. “Ayala’s okay with this?”

“Exciting announcement coming!” was how Dini teased her CT volunteers about the event at which she planned to launch the fundraising campaign. Shuki told her that she sounded like a Donald Trump tweet.

“Well, it worked,” she retorted, as she tallied the RSVPs for the last-minute event: Twenty-two yeses and two maybes. Real maybes, as in, “Oh no, I can’t believe I’m going to miss this, I’m seriously trying to rearrange my schedule.”

“Trump’s marketing shticks work, too,” Shuki replied.

Shtick or not, Dini was currently watching Shirel, owner of Bouquets of Love, set up the flowers, shears, and green blocks of floral foam on the tables. Flower arranging was not a cheap activity, especially as each volunteer would be making two arrangements, one for herself and one for her CT family. But the photo-op potential of a surprise flower delivery was priceless.

Dini straightened a couch pillow. Her volunteers would be arriving in a few minutes. Her gaze landed on Bracha, who was sitting on the couch. Bracha’s invitation had been a last-minute inspiration, to have another Chesed Tzirel staff member on hand to rev up the crowd and make this feel more official.

Now, she realized that she hadn’t yet filled Bracha in on the campaign details. She sat down.

“Before they come, let me give you a quick lowdown on the campaign.” She outlined the ideas she, Shuki, and Temima had come up with.

Bracha’s reaction was not quite as enthusiastic as she’d hoped. “A music video, huh? How trendy,” Bracha said sardonically. She raised an eyebrow. “Ayala’s okay with this?”

Dini coughed. “Um, I haven’t gone into all the details with her,” she mumbled. “You know how busy she’s been. But she told me she’s giving me free rein with the fundraising. And she’s helping as well.”

That part, at least, was absolutely true. Dini had spoken to Ayala about going to meet with her father’s list of donors. Ayala had not been thrilled about the idea — to say the least — but she’d accepted the task.

“Now that you’re an executive director, you’d better get used to wining and dining big donors,” Dini had teased. To which Ayala had retorted, “I thought that was your specialty.”

“Oh, are you promoting me?” Dini had said lightly. “I’ll have to give myself a raise.”

She’d hoped Ayala would catch her unspoken point, but Ayala had simply laughed. “Dini, you’re the absolute best, and I don’t know what we’d do without you. Go ahead and schedule these meetings for me, and I’ll try to brush up on my wining and dining skills. But it needs to be in the next two days, before I fly back.”

Thinking of this, Dini repeated more confidently to Bracha, “Ayala’s actually very involved in seeking matching donors for our campaign.”

Bracha gave a short laugh, as if she saw right through Dini. “Got it. Well, as long as I’m not expected to sing or anything, the idea doesn’t bother me. This is your baby. I told you, fundraising’s not my thing. But I wish you lots of hatzlachah.”

Dini felt a flicker of annoyance. Lots of hatzlachah? Did Bracha seriously not expect to be involved in the campaign? When part of its goal was to raise money for her salary? “Better wish us both hatzlachah,” she replied, trying to keep her voice light. “Hate to break it to you, hon, but you’ve just become a campaign ambassador.”

Bracha’s spluttering was almost comical. “I’m no good at asking for money. Really. I’m not trying to weasel out of this, it’s just — you don’t want me involved. I’m serious.”

Dini clenched her teeth. “Nobody likes asking for money. But that’s what tzedakah organizations do if they want to continue to exist and help the community. Our campaign team—” She faltered. Did that sound pretentious? Temima, graphic designer, copywriter, Shuki — yup, team. She swung her sheitel over her shoulder. “Our campaign team will explain everything you need to do, step by step. Fundraising for dummies. Even you can do that.”

“You don’t know how big a dummy I am,” Bracha shot back. But then she laughed, for real. “You’re an effective persuader.”

“Bracha, if I can’t convince you to raise money for Chesed Tzirel, I might as well throw in the towel now.”

Bracha sighed. “Listen I agreed to come to this volunteer event and help cheerlead.” She flashed a grin. “Like I would pass up an invite to join the Dini Blumenfeld Groupies.” Her voice turned serious. “I’ll help as much as I can. But I’m telling you up front, I don’t know how much time I’ll be able to commit.”

“Mmm,” Dini said, annoyed. “I hear.” She refused to concede more than that.

An hour later, as Dini watched her volunteers bent over their flower arrangements, eagerly following Shirel’s instructions, she couldn’t help notice Bracha’s amused expression as she watched the gathering. Dini made her way over.

“Where’s your flower arrangement?” she asked.

Bracha shrugged. “You can do mine for me, if you’d like.”

“Flowers aren’t your thing?” Dini couldn’t keep the bite out of her voice.

But Bracha simply grinned. “Exactly. Flowers and fundraising. And also, since you didn’t ask, cockroaches and ketchup and clothes shopping.”

Dini blinked. She’d forgotten how refreshing it was to speak to Bracha.


Bracha nodded solemnly. “Makes me want to throw up.”

Dini’s lips twitched. “At least you’re not throwing up from these flowers.”

“Nah. I have no problem with flowers. I’m just artistically challenged.” Bracha waved her hand around. “They all seem to be enjoying it, though.”

Dini smiled fondly. “They’re a great group, aren’t they? So enthusiastic.” She eyed Bracha. “Ready to do your cheerleading bit?”

“Got my pom-poms right here.”

Dini gave her a thumbs-up, though, privately, she had her doubts about Bracha’s rah-rah capabilities. She supposed that would be her job.

A half hour later, the flower leaves and stems were cleared from the table, the women were enjoying their crepes and lattes, and Dini was channeling her camp color war captain spirit of old.

“I hope you’re pumped, because you guys are about to lead the first-ever Chesed Tzirel crowdfunding campaign, and it’s gonna be awesome!”

She was met with some squeals (thanks, Sarale and Penina; hey, being her marriage mentees should yield some dividends), some raised eyebrows (Chaya, no shocker there), and many cautious stares. Okay, keep going.

“I’m going to tell you soon about what this means — like, the really, really cool prizes we’ll be giving to the biggest raisers, the super-exciting events I have planned for our call center, and of course, the hit music video we’re going to produce.”

Some of the ladies sat up straighter, others leaned forward, eyes widening slightly. Good, they were warming up.

“But before we get to those details, I want to talk about why we’re doing this. Over the past few months, you guys have gotten to see Chesed Tzirel up close in a lot of ways. You’ve become close to the families, you’ve seen what they go through when they’re dealing with a medical emergency, and how hard it is to be managing alone, far from family. But I want you to understand the full picture of what we do.”

She gestured toward Bracha, who stood up.

“As you all know, Ayala Wexler is the incredible person who started Chesed Tzirel, and who works around the clock to help Anglo families deal with the medical system here. But she’s in the US right now, so I’ve brought in Bracha Resnik, our new medial liaison, instead, to explain how, precisely, we support our families in their medical crises.”

Dini waved Bracha up, and settled back down in her chair. Bracha began to describe their process of intaking and assisting a new client. She spoke articulately and even cracked a few jokes that had the room laughing, but Dini frowned to herself. She didn’t need entertaining; she needed passionate.

Bracha wound down her short presentation and looked like she was about to sit down. Dini quickly jumped up.

“Bracha, can you just finish off by giving these ladies a sense of what it does to a family when they know they have us there to hold their hands, from start to finish?”

Bracha looked at Dini for a moment, and Dini shifted, wondering if she’d offended her somehow. Finally, Bracha took a breath.

“You want to know what it does to a family? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you what it’s like to be a family going through a medical crisis.”

Dini stared at her. Bracha’s voice had changed — it was suddenly low and intense.

“Imagine that your husband was suddenly diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Suddenly, the stability in your life has been pulled out from under you. Forget about kids, dinner, laundry — all you can focus on is that your husband might die, and you need to do whatever it takes to make sure he doesn’t. You know some people have survived this disease, have gotten a trans—” Bracha suddenly coughed. “Have managed to survive and live many healthy years. But others haven’t. And it’s just the two of you, dealing with a frightening, frightening diagnosis. The doctors are nice but you don’t always understand what they’re saying, or even know how to make the right appointments and whether it’s really okay to wait a few months because that’s when the next opening is, or whether you have to be assertive and push. And how do you even do that?”

Bracha was staring at a distant spot, above the crowd. “You’re terrified, you’re all alone, and all you can think about when you can’t fall asleep at night is, ‘I’m going to be an almanah in my thirties with two little kids.’”

Dini breathed in sharply, her eyes widening.

Bracha blinked, and appeared to refocus on the audience. “Do you know what it does to this woman when we reach out to her? When we say, hey, you’re not alone? That we’re here to tell you exactly what to do, who to meet with, and how to get the appointment you need when you need it? And not only that, but we’re going to sit with you through every appointment if you want, and help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options, and help you make the very best medical decision possible? Plus, we’re going to give you all the emotional and physical support you need? When you need someone to squeeze your hand or give you a hug, we’re here. When you need a meal or babysitting or — or someone to bring you flowers for Shabbos because your husband’s not in a condition to bring them to you—” She waved her arm at the table, blinking rapidly.

There was a brief silence. Dini saw several of the young women wiping away a tear. She cleared her throat.

“Thanks, Bracha,” she said softly.

Bracha nodded without looking her in the eye, and quickly made her way back to her seat.

As she passed, Dini had to resist the urge to reach out and give her a hug.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 898)

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