| Second Dance |

Second Dance: Chapter 33

“You know,” he told them, “the new neighborhood in Florida is only for the real gvirim, they’re very picky.”


Thursday was a big day for the residents of Wimbledon Loop.

Heshy Brucker had his second meeting with Rabbi Glatter scheduled. This one had been initiated by the rosh yeshivah, which was an encouraging sign. Gitty could see that he was nervous, and she walked him out to the car and smiled reassuringly. This moved him, because he hadn’t seen much of that Gitty since they’d come to America. Things would be good.

Reuven Stagler was going to meet Rabbi Klarberg, in an attempt to try to sell the rav on the Alameda Gardens rabbanus in person. The Lauer brothers hadn’t agreed to give up one of the new houses for the cause, but they had promised to cover half the salary for the first three years, which — they were eager to point out — was more than the other developers were doing. They had built a shul, they kept saying, and that should have been enough. The implication was that a more capable askan would have made it work already, but they would have to deal with what they had.

Both men met outside their homes on their way to their respective meetings, and Reuven Stagler offered the overly enthusiastic good morning greeting of a person who is overcompensating for not really meaning it.

Heshy Brucker paused and looked at Reuven for a minute, as if considering whether or not to have a good morning, and then smiled broadly in that way that Reuven found infuriating.

“You too, Reb Reuven, have an amazing day. Big meeting today. Let’s hope for siyata d’Shmaya,” he said and walked on.

It was only after he was buckled in and his car was already on that Reuven realized what Heshy had said, and even though he wasn’t in drive yet, he slammed on the brakes. How did Heshy know where he was going? How could he know that? He had literally said “big meeting today” as if he had access to Reuven’s calendar and was following developments with the rabbanus.

It was all so weird. He looked at the young man who didn’t even have a car of his own, who took three full turns to make a U-turn on Wimbledon. It shouldn’t have taken that long. The developers had made the streets wide enough for a person to make the complete U-turn in one shot — Reuven had actually measured this — but Heshy was also drinking a coffee and fiddling with the sound while he slowly turned the car around, so of course it took him a week to make the full turn.

What was it? How had this average-looking, average-acting, relatively simple young man captured the hearts of his neighbors? Reuven wondered. And did he read minds?


Akiva Putterman had been asked to deliver a speech at the bi-annual residents’ shiur, a major event in the Alameda Gardens calendar.

Mrs. Walburger, who arranged it, made sure he understood the magnitude of the kibbud. “I mean, this is the only one that’s for both men and women, and since it’s sponsored l’illui nishmas Rabbi Bolwirth, and his wife takes it very personally, it’s a big one. I leave the topic to you, Rabbi Putterman, you’ve already proven that you can read the room and, as one of us, you know what we worry about… we’re looking forward.

“Remember,” she concluded, “this is a very big deal.”

Akiva was smiling as he hung up. “Rin, I just got asked to say the hadran at the Siyum HaShas,” he said lightly, but she could tell he was pleased.

“Nice, what are you going to say?”

He paused, and looked very serious, suddenly.

“I am going to speak,” he said slowly, articulating each and every word, “about spouses letting each other move on from old mistakes and not reminding each other at each opportunity what they could have done better with the children. It’s bad for them and bad for their children.”

Rina looked away, feeling the weight of his words.

She hadn’t meant to bring it up. It wasn’t her style and anyhow, they were very proud of the fact that their son-in-law was wealthy. She was, at least. Shea had helped them numerous times, and was there for all her children, able to do things that she and Akiva were not.

They didn’t discuss it, because it made Akiva feel bad, but the kids appreciated it too. Before Succos, Akiva had bought new ties for all the boys, and Rina had watched them accept the gifts graciously, telling him how nice they were and how perfectly they matched their suits. Akiva had been proud, but she felt bad, because she knew that all her sons were free to go through Shea’s closet and take whatever Canali or Zegna hand-me-downs they wanted. They didn’t need Akiva’s “designer ties,” the ones he had carefully picked out at Nordstrom Rack for thirty dollars each.

Now Akiva, aware that he had said something sharp, got to work clearing the table, eager to move past it.

She wasn’t ready to talk yet, though, and she thought about what he’d said.

It had happened the night before, when the founder from a soup kitchen in Meah Shearim stopped in. She knew that he was there out of respect, not for the check, because Shea and Hindy had donated his building and he was the type who wanted to be friends with the whole family. Akiva didn’t see it that way, and wrote out his one-hundred-eighty-dollar check with aplomb. Rina admired this, and she smiled to herself.

Their guest, a seasoned Yerushalmi fundraiser with connections across the American philanthropic landscape, was sharing nachas reports about Shea and Hindy.

“You know,” he told them, “the new neighborhood in Florida is only for the real gvirim, they’re very picky.”

He raised his eyebrows and exhaled, as if indicating just how exclusive it was.

“They only invited like 50 mishpachos to buy there, they don’t want a crowd — let the oilam stay in Miami and Orlando, this is something different, Key Largo is a gantze andere maiseh,” he explained, as if he were an experienced tour operator with a special expertise in Florida.

Akiva nodded, even though he had no idea what the guest was talking about. Neither did Rina, and she stopped in the doorway to listen.

“Yah,” the guest listed off which families had made the cut, and said “pshhhhhhh” again, shaking his head back and forth.

“Shea,” he said, leaning forward, “not only did they invite him, they asked him to help decide who should be there, it’s going to be special. And the house… it’s going to be something else, I’m already invited for a Shabbos.”

Later, when he left, Akiva and Rina reviewed his every word. Hindy hadn’t told them about it, and Rina knew that she must have been embarrassed about it. She was pushing it off.

“Why do they need so much?” Akiva had asked. “When will it be enough? What’s wrong with the house they live in, the house in Fallsburg and the apartment in Shaarei Chesed? Why another?”

“Maybe you should have let her get those sunglasses,” Rina had suddenly said, surprising herself.

The sunglasses. It wasn’t an isolated story, but it defined three years of Hindy’s life when she had just wanted the stuff that her wealthy friends had, when labels and brands were all-important. Rina had understood her daughter’s need for the brand-name items, but Akiva had felt it a repudiation of his entire chinuch. Clothing should be tasteful, he agreed, but there was no reason to spend money you didn’t have on clothing you didn’t need.

When Hindy, in 12th grade, had asked for $300 sunglasses, Akiva had said that was it, he was drawing the line, this was insane, and even if Hindy paid out of her own pocket, he wouldn’t allow it. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t buy them herself, and for a few days, no one would give in.

Eventually, she stopped asking and moved on, but every so often, Rina brought it up.

Now, as Akiva cleared the last of the plates off the table, she decided to apologize.

“I will come to that shiur,” she said, “and I will listen to every word.”

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 911)

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