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“Ayalah is being bullied and picked on. She hates it there. I made a terrible mistake”


Because I grew up in the house of a native Yerushalmi, hearing English spoken with an Israeli accent is something I can detect from a mile away.

So when Leah and Aharon appeared in shul on Rosh Hashanah, and we shared a few words, I quickly realized that landsleit had arrived. My wife made the arrangements, and the family was invited for a seudah during Succos.

Husband and wife were ex-pats from Israel, and each had their own unique spiritual journey. It was a second marriage for both. Yet the star of the meal and the most fascinating of the guests was their 12-year-old daughter, Ayalah.

After a few moments of conversation, I realized that Ayalah, a pure, pristine neshamah, was attending the public school across from my house. Here was a Jewish girl who was socially and ostensibly intellectually on par with children her age. Nevertheless, she was inexplicably (in my mind) enrolled in a school whose population was 99 perecnt Latino and 0 percent Jewish.

After discussing the situation with her mother, I learned about some educational challenges Ayalah faced that had led to her mother’s decision that these needs could be more properly addressed in the public school system, with their array of special services.

I was not convinced this was the answer. However, as soon as I realized Ayalah’s mother was convinced, I knew that confrontation, which rarely leads to progress, was to be avoided.

I remained silent while maintaining a close eye on the family. Fall turned to winter and winter to spring, and Ayalah remained at Public School No. 3.

Every morning I would see the children make their way to school. As I watched, I would daven to Hashem to protect Ayalah from the dangers of such an environment. Yet I knew Hashem has His time, and we must wait patiently.

Pesach came and went, and the school year was coming to a close. It was then that Ayalah’s mother returned to me with a tearful admission. “Ayalah is being bullied and picked on. She hates it there. I made a terrible mistake.”

That evening I canceled all appointments and insisted on meeting with Ayalah and her mother in my dining room.

My wife supplied water and many tissues as Ayalah detailed to me the horrors of her daily journey into a hotbed of hostility. Tears unabashedly flowed down my face as Ayalah described with meticulous precision the pain and ridicule she was subjected to every day.

Ayalah’s daily dose of loathing from classmates included taunts of, “White girl, you don’t belong in our school,” along with verbal allusions to the hoped-for second coming of Hitler.

Every morning Ayalah hid on my block, waiting for the bell allowing the students to enter the building. She hid to avoid suffering the mockery and ridicule from some openly hostile students.

Two and half hours later, after dozens of tissues had been saturated with tears and the cry of a Jewish girl had pierced my heart, I made a promise to Ayalah.

“Your life of torment is over. Tomorrow morning, you will be in Bnos Bracha.”

After two phone calls that secured Rebbetzin Sarah Leah Weissman’s endorsement and Rabbi Yossi Hirth’s approval, Ayalah was fast-tracked back to her birthright.

Add in my wife’s ingenuity in securing a school uniform, and Ayalah, although apprehensive, was excited and determined.

The next morning, looking every bit a Bais Yaakov girl, Ayalah nervously showed up at school and was immediately embraced with love and warmth by all the girls.

A validating hug of acceptance from Rebbetzin Weissman erased any doubt about her decision.

What the future holds, only Hashem knows.

Yet we do know that when asked how she feels now, Ayalah replied, “I’m home, and when you’re home, all is good.”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 923)

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