| Jr. Fiction |

Leading the Class

Crushed cheesecakes lay scattered across the floor. She sank to her knees, tears streaming down her face

Hadassah idly shaded the building she was drawing as the other girls in her class enjoyed their recess. Across the aisle, her friend Bruchy worked on her own drawing.

The door slammed open as Penina ran into the room. “Do you know what Mrs. Levine just told me?” she exclaimed.

The room fell silent, and every eye turned to Penina.

“The end-of-year trip to the amusement park is canceled!” Penina cried. “Mrs. Friedman, the principal, just told the teachers. Mrs. Levine said to gather our class so that we can talk about it.”

“What happened?” Chana asked. “Why was it canceled?”

Penina shrugged. “Something about the reservation not being in their system or something. We were supposed to have picnic tables for lunch and supper, but since there’s no reservation, it would cost way too much money. The school said they can’t ask the parents for that much money.”

The door opened again, revealing Mrs. Levine. The class scurried to their seats as their teacher walked to the front of the room.

“As you’ve all heard from Penina, our trip is canceled,” Mrs. Levine said. “I know you must all be very disappointed, but Mrs. Friedman said that if we come up with a new trip idea, we can talk about going there instead.”

The room filled with quiet chatter as the class discussed how disappointed they were or thought of somewhere else to go. Hadassah looked down at her drawing, her heart sinking into her stomach. She’d been looking forward to the trip, too, and it was a shame that they couldn’t go for such a dumb reason….


Hadassah jumped up, her hand waving in the air. All eyes turned to her, and she shrunk back. She rarely spoke up in class.

“Yes, Hadassah?” Mrs. Levine called.

She took a deep breath. “What if we earned the money for the trip?” Hadassah’s words tumbled out in a rush. “If — if we could somehow raise money for the trip, to bring the price down to what it usually is, could we still go?”

The class fell silent as every girl turned to their teacher, their eyes pleading.

Mrs. Levine rubbed her chin, her expression thoughtful. “Hmmm, that’s an interesting idea, Hadassah. I can’t promise anything without talking to Mrs. Friedman first, but if the class comes up with a well thought out idea, I’ll ask for her permission.”

The room echoed with agreements and suggestions. “Shavuos is next week, right?” her friend said. “We can sell flowers!”

“Or cheesecake!” another girl shouted.

Mrs. Levine raised her hands. “Girls, girls! Settle down. Hadassah, since you had the idea first, why don’t you come up and lead the discussion in terms of how to go about it.”

Hadassah froze. This wasn’t what she wanted at all. She couldn’t lead the class. That was what other girls did, the ones who were loud and enjoyed taking charge. But all around her, she could see her classmates nodding eagerly.

Bruchy gently shoved her shoulder. “You’ll be great! You’re always so organized, I’m sure with you as our leader, we’ll raise tons of money!”

She attempted a smile, but the butterflies in her stomach made it difficult.

Hadassah slowly walked to the front of the room. Standing behind the desk, Hadassah gulped. All those eyes focused on her made her palms sweaty. She took a deep breath and pasted a shaky smile on her face.

“Hi—” Her voice cracked, and she cleared her throat. “So… I guess… does anyone have any ideas?”

Leah raised her hand and waited until Hadassah nodded in her direction. “I say we sell either cheesecake or flowers, since both of those are good for Shavuos.”

There were murmurs of agreement from the other girls around her, until Chana stood up. “We should sell flowers. We don’t have to worry about refrigerating them or making sure they have a good hechsher.”

“No, flowers might wilt before Shavuos starts,” Pessy, the girl who sat beside Chana, argued.

Hadassah watched helplessly as the classroom filled with shouts. She glanced desperately over at Mrs. Levine, but the Mrs. only shook her head gently and gave Hadassah an encouraging smile.

She was on her own.

But before Hadassah could continue, Leah sidled up to her and whispered, “I can help if you want.”

Hadassah nodded, a weight lifting off her chest. Everyone listened to Leah. She was a much better choice to lead this project.

From the corner of her eye, Hadassah saw a frown on Mrs. Levine’s face. For a moment she was confused, but then she shrugged it off. Having Leah help her out would only make this fundraising campaign better.

Leah gently nudged Hadassah to the side. “Everyone, quiet down!” she shouted.

The class instantly fell silent, all eyes turning to the front of the room again. Once she saw that she had everyone’s attention, Leah continued, “I think we should sell cheesecakes. We can talk to Mrs. Friedman to figure out the problem of a hechsher, but I’m more worried about flowers wilting or vases breaking.”

“How will we sell them?” someone called out.

Leah thought for a moment. “We can hand out fliers and ask people to fill out order forms. Everyone who orders can pick up their cheesecake the day before Shavuos.”

Hadassah saw heads nod all around the classroom, but something didn’t sit right with her. It was so close to Shavuos, would they really have time to make so much food? But seeing that everyone else agreed with Leah, Hadassah swallowed her concerns. Leah was in charge now, and that was fine with her.

At first, everything seemed okay. Mrs. Levine spoke to Mrs. Friedman, who loved the idea. She said that they could make homemade cheesecakes as long as they baked them in the school kitchen using the school ingredients. Hinda, whose mother was a graphic designer, brought in an order form and some fliers. They were off to a great start.

But that’s when things began to fall apart.

“Um, Leah?” Hadassah asked, a tremor in her voice. She held out the pastel pink order forms, which somehow had nearly twice as many cheesecakes listed as they had discussed. “Have you seen the changes to the order form?”

Leah leaned over. She had a pencil tucked behind her ear, the perfect image of a professional business owner. “Yes, I told Hinda to add a few new flavors. I think people would love a cookie batter one, don’t you?”

Hadassah bit her lip, not wanting to disagree but knowing something had to be said. “Maybe, but it’s so close to Shavuos already. I’m worried that adding more cheesecakes will be too much for us. If something unexpected happens, it’ll be much harder to complete our orders.”

“Oh, Hadassah, you’re worrying for nothing!” Leah exclaimed. “It’s just a few more flavors, what difference will it make?”

But as Hadassah watched her walk away, she knew it did make a difference. She began to worry that maybe she and Leah were in over their heads.

Tuesday night, the night before the last day of school, Hadassah found herself in the school kitchen with the rest of her class. Leah had split the class up into different groups, one to make cheesecake, one to decorate the cakes once they were done, and one to do the packaging.

Everything seemed to be running smoothly at first. The decorating group helped the baking group until it was time to start decorating the cheesecakes. After they were decorated, the packaging group carefully placed the cakes into the boxes Mrs. Levine ordered for them.

Then disaster struck.

As if in slow motion, Hadassah watched Bruchy trip over a broom lying across the floor and stumble into Chana. Chana lost her balance and flailed her arms….

“Watch out!” Leah shouted.

It was too late. Chana hit the stack of packaged cakes, making the tall pile wobble. Hadassah and the others held their breath, davening that it wouldn’t fall. But ever so slowly, the stack of perfect white boxes collapsed.

Leah let out a cry, staring at the now-smashed boxes. Crushed cheesecakes lay scattered across the floor. She sank to her knees, tears streaming down her face.

“What now?” she whispered.

The rest of the class looked at each other and shook their heads. Hadassah glanced around, seeing the frowns and wrinkled foreheads as everyone realized that their plan to raise money for their end-of-the-year trip was ruined.

Part of Hadassah wanted to cry also, but she couldn’t. Mrs. Levine had put her in charge for a reason, and maybe… maybe this was it. Maybe she could find a way to fix the problem.

She cleared her throat and jumped up on a chair, her cheeks growing warm at the thought of what she was about to do. “Hey!” she shouted over the disappointed mutterings of her classmates.

One by one, the girls in her class fell silent and turned to her. Hadassah gulped at all the eyes on her. She hated being the center of attention like this.

“So we just lost a few hours of work! That’s disappointing. But we can fix this!” Hadassah said in a loud voice. “It took us three hours to put together those cheesecakes. It’s only seven-thirty, which means that if we hurry, we can finish a second batch before 11 o’clock. Do you think we can do it?”

A couple of girls half-heartedly called out, “Yes!” but the majority of the class stayed silent and avoided her gaze.

Hadassah tried to look every girl in the eye. “DO YOU THINK WE CAN DO IT?”

“YES!” This time, everyone shouted in reply, and Hadassah was happy to see determination on everyone’s faces.

The next few hours passed in a whirl of mixers, cheese, and ribbon as the class worked hard to finish the second batch of cakes. Somehow, it took even less time to finish the cakes than it had before.

As the other girls loaded the cakes into the freezer, Leah turned to Hadassah with a sheepish grin on her face. “Thanks,” she said.

“For what?”

Leah stuck her hands in her sweater pockets. “For motivating everyone. You were right, I shouldn’t have added those cheesecakes at the last minute. Thank you for helping me, even though I didn’t follow your advice.”

Hadassah shrugged. “I couldn’t leave you to handle it on your own. Besides, we’re both in charge.”

“Either way, this never would have gotten done without you,” Leah told her.

The next morning, after all the cheesecakes were sold, the seventh-grade class gathered in front of the classroom door, eagerly awaiting Mrs. Levine’s arrival. Their teacher had the money and would tell them if they had raised enough for the trip.

When Mrs. Levine entered the room, everyone held their breaths. Had they done it?

Mrs. Levine smiled. “Baruch Hashem, we not only raised enough money for the trip, but also enough to go out for ice cream afterward!”

The class cheered, and Hadassah felt a warm feeling in her chest. She’d helped make this happen.

She felt a gentle tap on her shoulder and turned to find Mrs. Levine smiling at her. “Great job, Hadassah,” her teacher said. “I wanted you to lead this project because I knew you could do it.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Levine,” Hadassah replied

Maybe, from now on, she’d volunteer to help out once in a while. After all, the bake sale had gone pretty well… in the end.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 962)

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