She didn’t need Chaim to get a job; she already had a job she wanted for him
Shaindy Brucker sat still, focused on the same page in the magazine for five minutes straight, her mind wandering. She and Chaim had never been convention-goers. Once, a kashrus organization Chaim worked for did a Shabbos at a hotel in the Catskills and she had been really excited to go, but Chaim was apologetic. “Shaindy, I work with these people every day of the week, the last place I want to be on vacation is in a hotel with all of them.”
And just like that, Shaindy’s dream of an enjoyable Shabbos — waiters serving and clearing the table, speakers and choirs and a lobby filled with people to schmooze with — disappeared.
But now there were no more excuses. There were no children at home, there was a bit of money in the bank, and she liked the idea of creating new friendships, now that she had a new neighborhood. Kensington was in the past, and Chaim’s string of half-jobs and almost-jobs and short-lived positions was behind them. This new persona — a home in Alameda Gardens, he’s a big talmid chacham and she’s a teacher — would do well at a convention.
But she had another intention, of course. Her sister-in-law, a big fancy therapist specializing in shanah rishonah couples, did all the conventions and always maintained that it was where the real Klal Yisrael action was, where people made connections and found jobs.
She didn’t need Chaim to get a job; she already had a job she wanted for him. But she did think exposure on that stage would build up his image in the neighborhood. She would tell people that they didn’t want to go away for Shabbos, that Chaim felt an achrayus, and she would make sure that her neighbor Mr. Reuven “we just came from Queens we don’t know anyone in Lakewood we just want a quiet life” Stagler, who was suddenly president of the whole neighborhood, somehow found out about it.
The rav he was in charge of finding lived right next door to him, and Shaindy would make sure he got the message.
Shea Helberg was sitting with the Lauer son in charge of Second Stage Living. Shea knew the type: the younger son who needed to succeed so he could prove himself in a family business crowded with brothers and brothers-in-law, given these relatively small pieces to show what he could do. When Shea had called to get a house for his in-laws, he had jumped over dozens of people on the waiting list, and now he owed the guy a favor.
He was choosing to misunderstand, a technique he had perfected over years in business.
“I’m not clear, it is a success, or it’s not a success?” Shea wore a bewildered expression.
The Lauer son shrugged. “It is and it isn’t. Meaning we sold out pretty quickly, but we sold a bit too quickly — meaning we priced the houses lower than we should have, and we didn’t do great with keeping expenses down.”
“So how can I help?” Shea asked politely.
He wasn’t much older than the Lauer son and he reveled in his role as the gvir successful enough to give advice to others, many of them just a few years younger than he.
“I don’t know, your projects seem to take off and clearly, they’re also profitable,” Lauer said, obviously uncomfortable. “I’m trying to figure this out, what am I missing? I very much want to build a second phase, and obviously, I’m going to have to charge much more. How do I create the buzz that will make people ready to pay?”
Shea sighed expansively. “Look, I use marketing people, happy to refer you, but if I had to give you a general tip, it would be to create a sense among the residents of Alameda that they’re so happy, and find ways they can share that happiness — but without making them realize it, you chap? Like you don’t want it to look like an advertisement.”
Now the Lauer son was confused. “Like what?”
They were seated near the side wall of Rico — the maître d’ had understood that they wanted a table that would afford them privacy and also the opportunity to be seen by every other patron, since it was important to the Lauer son (whose name was Shloimy, a fact that Shea Helberg, who was the son of a rebbi and part-time shatnez checker, knew, but preferred to ignore) to be seen with Helberg. Local real estate people had taken to the new restaurant (the flair of Spanish cuisine, Lakewood style), and this was a good alliance.
“How can you make them happy?” Shea said. “By creating a sense of elitism, to be honest. You want them talking like belonging to Alameda is the peak of existence, the greatest thing that can happen to a person. L’mashal, you make sure that even though they’re old, they have a volleyball team that competes at the what’s-it-called event, maybe Team Alameda as a page in someone’s Charidy campaign, know what I mean? Print sweatshirts that say Alameda Family and make sure the people are wearing them all over Lakewood, stuff like that. And then, when the buzz is flying, you launch Phase Two but you make it impossible to get in. Advertise it all over without letting people buy yet, and tell them their name is going on the list when they call, etcetera etcetera…. You get the mehalech.”
The Lauer son nodded eagerly. “Yeah, that’s why I asked you, means a lot to me that you made time, this was mamash what I hoped for.”
Shea smiled virtuously. “It’s a pleasure, I’m so happy you asked. You know, we talk about achrayus with money, but there’s also achrayus to give advice and time if you can, you know? Besides, I have tremendous hakaras hatov to you, my in-laws are really happy in the place.”
The Lauer son lit up. “Tell me about their experience so far,” he said hungrily.
“Well,” Shea stumbled for a minute, trying to remember if he had any relevant information on this front, “well, you know most of what I hear is derech my wife, I don’t speak to them all the time, but apparently my shver gave some sort of speech that was mamash viral, the oilam was very into it. Everyone came over to ask questions, and then over the next few days people came to the house to speak with him — it was a matzav. My shvigger told my wife that they suddenly got Shabbos invitations from people they don’t even know.”
Lauer nodded seriously. “Yes, there’s a tremendous thirst there for quality programming. We’re reorganizing the structure of the whole neighborhood to make it more formal. First things first, we need a real rav. We hired a yungerman for the Yamim Noraim, but we need to make hiring a full-time rav a priority.”
He lowered his voice, as if sharing a secret. “Listen, you know how it is, if you hire a rav before, it costs you a house. We already gave the shul, and it’s a bit much. But if you wait for everyone to move in, you have to get lucky, find someone on-site already, and I’m not sure we have anyone there. I’m hopeful that this new guy, who we feel is the perfect guy to be the askan there, you know, a very Queens type,” he laughed, “he’s good for this sort of thing, maybe he’ll help us find the right man.”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 888)
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