It would be the ultimate proof that Dini had no concept of how regular people lived
Dini sat down at the dining room table and flipped open her laptop. Against the odds and despite all logical conclusions at 7:45 this morning, the kids had miraculously gotten off to school semi on time. The cleaning lady, bless her, had also arrived semi on time, and was now in the kitchen, scrubbing the post-Shabbos counters. Even Shuki had sauntered off to his office, a shared workspace for frum men where, from what she could tell, he spent his days collecting the latest memes to send out to his friends, perfecting his paper-ball-into-wastebasket shot, and trying out the lunch specials in each of the Jerusalem restaurants.
Now it was time for her to get to work.
She flexed her hands, rolled back her shoulders, and straightened her back, imagining herself sitting in a corporate office. Like Eliana.
And you wondered what I do all day, she thought, still feeling the sting of her sister’s words. Maybe she wasn’t acquiring gazillion-dollar properties, but she was about to do something more important: raise money so that her best friend could support her family while running an organization that helps thousands of people.
Dini frowned. Thousands? It had an amazing ring to it, but it probably hadn’t been thousands of people. Hundreds? Dozens? How many families had they actually helped in the past six years? This was the type of information she needed to know before embarking on fundraising. She opened a new file, titled it “Fundraising for Chesed Tzirel” and typed, ask Ayala for stats on how many people helped.
Her manicured nail tapped aimlessly on the laptop keyboard. What next? How did one go about fundraising, anyway? When she needed money, she simply messaged her parents. Her finger hovered in the air for a moment. Could she? It was the obvious route.
“Daddy, you know that organization I was telling you about? Well, we’re about to launch to a new level, and we need a full-time salaried executive to make that happen. Would you be able to finance that salary?”
She paused in her daydream, as she realized she had no answer to the obvious follow-up question. How much money did she need to raise?
Dini cocked her head. What was a typical salary for the head of an Israeli nonprofit? How much did Ayala need in order to make up for her speech salary? For that matter, how much did she even need to live on?
Dini had literally no idea.
Her brow furrowed. How much did her own family spend each month? There was food and clothing and electricity and phone bills and… um… property taxes, and….
She bit her lip. Her in-laws deposited a monthly “salary” into their bank account, and if the funds ever got low, they simply deposited more. When Dini went shopping, she swiped her credit card, and the bill automatically went to her father.
Should she ask Ayala? Her face grew warm at the thought. Not only was it a humiliating question to ask, it would be the ultimate proof that Dini had no concept of how regular people lived.
The water in the kitchen turned off, and Maya stuck her head into the living room.
“Siyamti et hamitbach,” she said, waving her hand toward the gleaming counters. “Achshav kevisah?”
“Yes, laundry,” Dini said. “Do the kids’ clothing first.”
Dini watched as the cleaning lady began to make her way to the bedrooms. Maya, she knew, only had three children, not six, but still….
“How much money does a regular family in Israel make each month?” she blurted out.
Maya swiveled around, eyebrow raised, and Dini immediately blushed.
“Oh, never mind,” she said falteringly.
But the cleaning lady shrugged. “Well, I make around 8,500 shekels.”
Dini grinned. Gotta love that Israeli forthrightness. “Ah, todah!”
Eighty-five hundred shekels.
But she was a cleaning lady.
So that meant that Ayala needed….
She shook her head and dialed Shuki. “Hi, you busy now?”
“Wellll,” he drawled. “I got Bibi here in my office. But for you, he’ll just have to wait.”
“Aw, thanks.” Dini giggled. “I need your help in figuring out some financial matters.”
“Psshh, financial matters. Well, you came to the right place. Should I call in the stocks boys or the bonds men? Or were you interested in mutual funds?”
“Hah hah. I want to know how much we spend each month.”
There was a pause on the other end. “Oh? Why the sudden interest in budgeting?”
She felt a twinge of annoyance. Did he think her so incapable of dealing seriously with money? Don’t worry your pretty little head about that. She’d hated the implicit message she’d gotten from her family growing up. But she’d always believed that Shuki viewed her as smart and competent; that was one of the things she’d loved about him from the start.
“It’s not a sudden interest. I’ve always been—” Dini stopped. To say she’d always been interested in budgeting would be stretching the truth way beyond credulity.
“How about you just tell me?” she said testily, as Shuki laughed.
“How about, before you force me to take away precious work time to start calculating bills and expenses, you tell me why you want to know?”
Precious work time, right. But she supposed he had a fair point. “I told you that I’m going to fundraise so that the organization can pay Ayala a salary. But I honestly have no clue how much that salary should be. And I can’t ask her — that would be way too tacky.”
“So you figured you’d just calculate our own enormously generous monthly allowance and treat your friend to a life of luxury as well?”
He was making fun of her. Her cheeks burned as she glanced toward the closed bedroom door and said, “Well, I did do some research and found out how much Maya makes. But, you know, she’s a cleaning lady.”
“I hear cleaning ladies are, like, the highest-paid professionals in this country. Next to hi-tech.”
“Very funny.” Yes, her friends complained about the cost of cleaning ladies. And people like Ayala didn’t even have one. But still… She let out an exasperated breath.
“Can you help me or not?”
Shuki’s voice softened. “Four thousand dollars. That’s a nice, respectable monthly salary here in Israel. Who do you plan on asking, your father or mine?”
Despite the fact that she’d just fantasized a moment ago about simply asking her father and being done with it, the way Shuki said it now made her bristle.
“Neither! I’m planning to actually fundraise! This is a real job.”
Had that been too mean? She regretted the barb as she heard the infinitesimal pause in her husband’s voice before he laughed again.
“Well, good luck with your real job. At least someone in the family should have one.”
Ayala peered at the street signs through the bus window. Ah, Divrei Chaim, here it was.
She really needed to get someone from Beitar to help coordinate cases; she’d recently been getting more calls from that city, and there were only so many times she could leave the kids in the afternoon to schlep out there.
Of course, if she could use her mornings for in-person visits… She shook her head as she pressed the stop button. Naftali, Dini, they were both in fantasy land. Besides, even if Dini were to raise the money for her salary, did she even want to quit speech therapy? She enjoyed her job! It wasn’t fair of them to pressure her to leave it!
She got off the bus, found building number 12, and walked up to the second floor.
A young girl answered her knock.
“Hello, I’m Ayala. Is your Ima here?”
The girl nodded and removed a thumb from her mouth to say, “She’s with Perele.”
Perele must be the new baby born with a cleft palate. “Can you tell her I’m here, metukah? Ayala from Chesed Tzirel.”
A moment later a young woman walked into the living room, carrying a newborn.
“Thank you so much for coming!” she said, shifting the baby to one arm so that she could grasp Ayala’s hand with the other. “It’s been so crazy since Perele was born. We had no idea she had a cleft palate.We don’t do ultrasounds. It was such a shock… and we’re new here — we don’t know too many people. I had no idea what to do. But my friend Gitty said to call you, that you’re amazing at helping people like me.”
Ayala gave her a reassuring smile. “I’m so happy to help. Don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine. Can I see the little bubah?”
The mother held out the baby. “It’s… not pretty to see.”
Perele, she saw, had a cleft lip as well as palate; there was a big split between the two halves of her upper lip. Ayala gently stroked her cheek.
“She’s gorgeous,” she said, and the mother’s face lit up.
Ayala continued, “I assume they explained to you in the hospital about the cleft? How to feed her? When they’ll do the corrective surgeries?”
“Yeah, they did,” the new mother said doubtfully. “But it was all so much and so fast. And I didn’t really understand the Hebrew. The doctor tried talking in English to me, but, honestly, I didn’t really understand his English, either.”
“Next time that happens, please call me, and I’ll speak to the doctor and translate for you,” Ayala said. “That’s exactly what we’re here for. I know how frightening these situations can be.”
“Wow, that would be so, so amazing.”
The mother sat down on the couch and Ayala sat next to her. “Did the hospital arrange for a feeding specialist? Because I know an excellent one, a speech therapist who lives in Ramot, and she’s an English-speaker, too. Would you like me to have her come here?”
“Oh, yes!” The mother’s eyes widened. “The feeding specialist in the hospital was nice, and she gave me this special bottle to use. She’d said she’d come for a home visit, too. But she was talking so fast, and, um, I’d feel so much more comfortable with an American, you know?”
“Of course. Now, let me explain to you what will happen in the coming months and years.”
As Ayala began to talk about surgeries and speech therapy for articulation, she saw the glow of reassurance spread over the young mother’s face, and she felt an answering glow on her own. This was her milieu; this was where she felt that she was contributing meaningfully to the world.
“Wow, you know so much!” the mother exclaimed gratefully.
“Well, I happen to be a speech therapist,” Ayala said.
“Lucky for me!”
Ayala smiled at the young woman, but the words jolted her inside. Lucky for this woman… and for all of the other Chesed Tzirel people who would need her speech expertise.
Leaving her job didn’t mean she needed to quit her field, she realized. It just meant moving on with it to something different.
Was she ready for such a change?
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 858)
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