| Family First Serial |

Half Note: Episode 16  

“Market research?” Eva repeated. This was it, her concept’s Achilles heel


“It’s not supposed to be rainbows for 365.”

—Nachi Gordon, Meaningful people

“Tell me what you’re thinking?” Alana was sitting at relaxed attention.

Eva paused, looking around the trying-a-little-too-hard marketing office, with its yellow chairs and too-clean lines. Alana was sitting next to her, on the same side of the table, which was in line with the workplace podcasts she’d been listening to — power dynamics, welcoming collaboration, stuff like that.

This was not the time for an elevator pitch. This was a share-your-soul-and-vision so it could be seen and actualized. But still she hesitated. Everyone but the musicians had practically laughed at her. This was someone she’d be paying, Alana wouldn’t laugh, but… her thoughts trailed off.

Eva reached for the glass of water on the table, took a sip and launched her speech. She watched Alana closely as she spoke. Did she seem disinterested? Cynical? Bored?

Alana’s eyes were big. She was leaning forward and nodding. Did she really mean it? Or did she just want another account?

“What do you think?” she asked Alana when she’d finished sharing her vision.

Alana’s smile came easily.

“It sounds amazing. This is something that’s not front-line like Bikur Cholim, or super practical like a yeshivah, but it’s still life-changing on a different level.”

Finally, someone else who got it.

“Where do we start?” Eva asked, new life in her voice.

Alana leaned back. “There’s a lot to do when putting together an event. The venue, the talent, the sound and lights, the marketing, the copywriting and the graphics. Then there’s the print ads, digital, influencers, how to approach donors.” Alana was ticking off her fingers and quickly running out of them.

“That’s just the event?” Eva asked.

“Yeah, and I’m missing a bunch of lower-level details. I just want you to understand the time commitment.”

Eva nodded.

“What about the money commitment? How much would such an event run?”

Alana closed her eyes for a second, seeming to tally numbers in her head,

“Around 30 to 50k, but you might be able to break even with ticket sales and high-level donors.”

Eva swallowed hard. Money wasn’t a problem. But she hadn’t planned on selling tickets, this was meant to be free. And high-level donors… that was her.

“But what if no one comes?” Eva said, her fear racing out of her mouth before her dignity could stop it.

Alana looked at her thoughtfully. “How much market research have you done?”

“Market research?” Eva repeated. This was it, her concept’s Achilles heel.

“Talking to people and finding out if there’s a need and interest.”

A lump settled in Eva’s throat and she couldn’t swallow without pain.

“Nothing formal.”

Alana seemed to be appraising her. “You didn’t tell me the organization’s name.”

Eva looked away. She could see out the window, there was traffic on Oakton.

“Don’t have a name yet — I’m still in the idea stage, but I’m ready to do something about it.”

“I see.” There was something in Alana’s voice that felt judgy. Did she think Eva was a bored rich lady, here on a whim? Alana started scribbling on a paper, then handed it to Eva.

“You should call Shaindel Rochel Kagen. She helps nonprofits gain clarity on their missions. She can find you a mentor and the like before you plan anything.”

“Can’t I just call it Zemer United and get a pretty logo, and we’ll be good to go?” Eva half-joked.

Alana tapped her mouth like she was restraining herself from saying something.

“Mrs. Weissbrod, there’s a lot more to an organization that goes into developing the name and logo. And, being upfront, coming up with an organization brand mission, logo, voice, and the like will be another 10k at least. It’s foundational to any organization.”

Why did it feel like Alana was discouraging her? Eva rubbed the paper between her fingers. Alana wouldn’t work with her, not yet at least. She looked at the paper. It was just another step, why did she feel so defeated?

She thanked Alana, gathered herself and left the office.

“Be in touch,” Alana said warmly as she opened the door for Eva to exit the office.

Eva nodded. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t articulate why she felt so small.

She settled behind the wheel and thought. It wasn’t the money, was it? Spending 50k on just the launch event felt a little steep. How much would the actual organization running costs be? She didn’t know the first thing about running an organization. She’d taught before Binyomin made his money, knew nothing about the world of finance.

She looked out the window and watched the passing walkers, bikers, and joggers on McCormick. Was that it? She wanted to do something that would require her to attempt things she wasn’t sure she was capable of. Could she do that? Maybe if people wanted it. But Alana’s market research questions had hit home. Should she be doing all this, baring her heart and taking risks, for something nobody seemed to really want?



nd over here is the second bathroom.” The agent spread her arms generously.

Shira limped over, peeked around the door — and tried to keep from recoiling. The tiles were a bright turquoise going halfway up the bathroom walls, the painted half was a creamy brown. She shouldn’t have been surprised; this continued the trend of the house.

The railing in the front was shaky.

“Easy fix,” the agent said.

The dining room and living room were tiny and oddly shaped, with wood paneling on the walls. The kitchen was straight out of the ’70s, yellow backsplash included.

“It’s all cosmetic!” the agent said breezily as she showed them around the house. “It’s an amazing block, you’re so close to the shul, and it’s perfect for your growing family.”

Shira had tried looking at Ephraim but he was busy looking inside the fireplace.

There were only three bedrooms. Was that big enough for three kids? She wouldn’t be able to have guests. And there was so much “cosmetic” work that needed to be done. By the time she was done redoing the kitchen and the bathroom, painting, scraping, and redoing the basement floors, she might as well have gutted the place. Also, they needed to move now, not in six months.

“What are you thinking?” the agent asked.

Shira couldn’t speak, couldn’t get the words past her feelings. Ephraim was looking at her expectantly, like this was her decision. It wasn’t. Nothing was anymore.

“We need to talk, and think it over,” Ephraim finally said.

“Let me know. It’s a tight market, you know. Someone else is gonna grab it. If it’s in the frum area, the market runs differently — you know that.”

Shira saw Ephraim’s jaw clench, he hated being sold to, pressured.

“Of course.” He looked at Shira again, waiting for her to say something.

There was nothing to say, she just wanted to go to bed and cry.

“I can recommend a great mortgage broker. You know you don’t have to use the person who pre-approved you.”

“Yes, yes,” Ephraim said, and Shira could hear the irritation in his tone. “Thank you.”

He started toward the exit, Shira following limply.

Back in the car, Ephraim turned to Shira. “Why didn’t you say anything? What do you think of the house? She’s right, it’s all cosmetic. We buy it, make it nice, live there a few years, figure things out and then sell. It’s not a bad idea.”

Shira sat, her arms flat on her lap, tears leaking from her eyes.

“Are you crying? Why?”

Shira shook her head. Why did he have everything all figured out already?

“What’s going on Shira?” He sounded concerned now.

Did he not get how much of everything this would take? She needed a place to live, now. And it couldn’t be gross. Was that too much to ask?

“Shira, talk to me,” Ephraim’s voice was loud.

Was he was losing patience already? Forget him. He’s the reason why she was crying in a car in stupid Chicago in the first place. Shira sat, tears flowing freely. She felt her cheeks swell, and knew she looked disgustingly ugly, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. Everything was wrong. She was trying to take an active role in her life, but there were stop signs everywhere. Why bother?

Ephraim looked on, blank and bewildered. Serves him right, Shira thought.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 812)

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