“You got the position you’ve always wanted. I was being supportive! I picked up and moved!”
Chana, you are the worst. EVER. I finally make a friend and you go and abandon me.
I chuckled reading Abby’s text and quickly responded. I am not the worst ever. I’m just someone who prioritizes and put you on the bottom. I’ll call you later, I must make shul phone calls and supper!
I got out a pot to start on supper, must get a move on it, it’s late. My phone buzzed again.
That by definition is the worst ever. Talk to you later.
Whew, she wasn’t too upset. I mushed the bag of ground beef, good, it had defrosted. I reached for a bowl and the spices. Meatball Monday, here we come.
I paused a second to take out the list Avrumi had given me of three board member wives. I met them all the week we went for the pruba. Nice people, very official.
I dialed the first, Devorah Kalish — her husband was the shul VP. No answer. I left a perky “Thank you” message. Next, Yehudis Schloss, her husband was president of the shul and the one who’d officially hired Avrumi. I got out a pot for the pasta. She answered as I was filling it with water.
I turned the water off. “Hi, this is Chana Schwartzberg.”
“Rebbetzin Schwartzberg, so nice to hear from you.”
I cringed at the title. “I’m just calling to thank you for the platter you and the Neshei sent over this past Shabbos. It was so beautiful and thoughtful. It really made our family feel welcome.”
“I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Also glad that you called, you were on my to-do list. The Neshei is having a small get-together at my house. We’re going to make shanah tovah gifts for our kids’ teachers. It’s really just an excuse to get together, but I was hoping you could say a few words. It’s a great chance for everyone to meet you, and for you to help us help our kids start the new year on the right foot.”
I never met a get-together I didn’t like. Although I’ve never made shanah tovah gifts for teachers. Was I supposed to?
“I’d love to come. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to meet with the kehillah’s wives. I’m just not so sure about speaking. I’m still drowning in the paper towels I used to pack all my dishes.”
“Rebbetzin Schwartzberg, of course we want to give you time to settle down, but I also really wanted to discuss the Elul programing with you, sooner rather than later. This past year a few of us in the kehillah married off children, I think addressing that group is important. And there’s always the mothers who spend Yamim Noraim at home, they need to feel inspired and connected.
“I was also thinking of starting a teen girl program. There’s so much focus on minyanim for boys, I thought the girls could use a bit of community boost. Do you think we could meet for coffee or lunch tomorrow? Or Wednesday, if that’s not good?”
I leaned against the counter, the box of pasta slipping from my hand. “Yehudis, I appreciate you trying to involve me in Neshei programming, but like you said, I need time to settle down, help the kids settle in. Also, I’m not really the speaker type — like, I find out what parshah it is from my kids’ parshah sheets.”
“Hi, Yehudis, did I lose you?” I looked at the clock. Must finish supper.
“Rebbetzin Schwartzberg, I understand that moving can be overwhelming, and that you may not see speaking as your type, but I’m really hoping you’ll change your mind. The Neshei is the core of our kehillah, and as our rebbetzin I would hope you’d appreciate that.”
“Oh.” I paused. “Yes, sure. I understand. I can… yes… put something together.”
“Wonderful. Ten minutes should be long enough,” Yehudis said cheerily, her voice shifting mood faster than my Chaim’s.
We exchanged goodbyes. My breath was shallow. I’ve never felt this small in my life.
That was Avrumi. I whirled around.
“Avrumi, I’m so happy you’re home.” Relief flooded my voice. “I just had the worst phone call ever.”
I repeated it verbatim to him. Avrumi was shaking his head by the end.
“Chana, Chana. First, don’t worry about speaking, I’ll put something together for you.”
I exhaled, and smiled. Half of the problem solved.
Avrumi continued. He had his lecturing face on.
“But she’s right. You need to put the klal needs first. That’s what it means to lead a kehillah. And also…” He paused, choosing his words carefully. “This is a new town, new job, new responsibilities. We need to make positive impressions, we can’t assume familiarity before we’ve earned it.”
My jaw hung a bit. Avrumi was not on my side.
“But you’re the rav,” I said.
“And you’re the rebbetzin.”
I blinked. “I didn’t sign up to be a rebbetzin. Do I look like a rebbetzin? Do I act like a rebbetzin?” I did a little jig, to both make my point and lighten the mood.
“What did you think you were signing up for?”
I looked around the kitchen as if it would give me answers. “You got the position you’ve always wanted. I was being supportive! I picked up and moved!”
Avrumi was shaking his head again. “No, Chana, it’s a package deal. I’m Rav, you’re Rebbetzin.”
I bit my tongue.
Avrumi plunged ahead. “At the interview, weren’t you the one who said women also need to be engaged in Yiddishkeit?”
“Yes. So? That doesn’t mean I’m volunteering to do the engagement.”
Avrumi frowned. I picked up the Amazon box before he could continue — distraction needed! I pulled out a package of diapers and wipes. What? Not for me. Tzvi is six. I dumped the stuff back in the box, I’d figure this out later. I needed to finish the meatballs already.
Avrumi dug through the box.
“There’s a note.”
“What?” I looked up.
“It’s from Leah.” Avrumi passed me the paper.
So I know you’ll have when I come. Love, Leah
The note fluttered to the floor. My hand was shaking.
“Does it mean what I think it does?” Avrumi asked, a smile curling at his lips.
I grabbed the phone and dialed Leah on speaker. She picked up on the first ring.
“Am I going to be a grandmother?” I bellowed.
“You got my package?”
“You answer first.”
My heart melted.
“A chair!” I called to Avrumi.
He pulled over a barstool. I made a face.
“I can’t collapse onto a barstool!”
He smiled even bigger and dragged a chair from across the kitchen.
“And this is how you tell your mother?”
“So much more fun.”
“How you feeling, when you due? Tell me everything.”
“Oh, gosh, the clinic is clicking in, and I’ve been trying to reach them all day. Call you later, ’kay?”
She hung up. I turned to Avrumi, his eyes were shining.
“Are you crying?” I asked.
“You’re bawling.” He pointed at my face.
I touched my cheeks, they came away wet. I was bawling. I was going to be a bubby. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
“Oh, Avrumi, I didn’t even realize how anxious I was for her until now.”
Avrumi was composed again. “Baruch Hashem.”
“Baruch Hashem,” I echoed.
We sat quietly for a moment. Rebbetzin and grandmother! Madness. Life as I knew it was over. My shoulders had broadened to football player proportions within 20 minutes.
“Something supposed to be in those pots?”
Supper! Just another small thing on my shoulders.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 688)
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