Recap: Avi told Libby he doesn’t want to become a doctor. He wants to drop out of medical school and learn full time. They receive the medical school bill, which his father always pays, and Avi realizes that he has to tell his father about his decision.

The next morning, I called Aliza, my friend and mentor – the person who first introduced me to Yiddishkeit.

“There’s so much going on now. I don’t even know where to start.” Aliza was the only person who could help me sort this out. I pictured her wearing a beautifully wrapped tichel, usually bright purple or blue-green. She wore long dresses in flowy material. Her large, gray eyes would be full of sympathy and caring. Aliza was such an amazing person. Her parents had escaped Iran and became more religious when they came to America. Aliza knew Arabic, Persian, English, and Hebrew. She was really something.

“Tell me.”

Hearing her calm melodious voice was already helping.

A toddler interrupted, “I want milk.”

“Libby, hold on one minute, please. I’m watching my neighbor’s son and he needs a drink.”

A few minutes later, she came back on the phone. “Sorry. Please tell me what’s going on.”

“So, Avi decided.” I paused. “He decided to take a leave of absence from medical school. He told me that he doesn’t want to be a doctor. He just told me that, and he wants to learn full time in kollel and become a rebbe.”

“Wow!” Aliza exhaled. “I can’t believe it. That is totally awesome. That’s so brave. How do you feel about it?”

“Honestly, I was surprised. It took me a while to digest this whole new arrangement, but the main thing is for my husband to be happy and he’s absolutely glowing.”

“So that’s amazing. You are a wonderful wife.”

“But, Aliza, there’s a problem.” I told her about Avi’s father. “I think he’ll just be heartbroken. Avi is dreading to break the news to him.”

“Hmmm. You need to speak to Hashem. You need your Tatty’s help right now.”

I always loved the way Aliza called Hashem my Tatty. Aliza was the only one who knew about our fertility struggle, and she knew my other secret. She was the only friend I’d ever shared that other secret with.

She was the one who had first influenced me, not even on purpose, to start being mitzvah-observant. I met her when her family moved to Bar Harbor. She was the daughter of Chabad shluchim and she’d walked into our souvenir shop. I was only 11, but I was working the register and somehow the two of us connected right away. I thought back to that first time I’d gone to her family’s house for Friday night dinner, not knowing how that meal would change my whole life. After that, I wanted to have Shabbos and I started lighting a Shabbos candle at my grandmother’s house. And now, I was suddenly becoming a kollel wife. Aliza must be feeling quite surprised and happy at what was happening.

“We saw Rabbi Salesman last night.”

She was the one who had recommended we see him.

“He told us to daven.” I felt a catch in my voice.

“Did he give you any other advice about the davening?”

I hesitated. “Well, he mentioned something about Rebbetzin Kanievsky a”h, davening three times a day with a minyan.”

Aliza was quiet for a minute. “Libby, have you considered going to shul for Shacharis? You’re not working right now, and it might help your kavanah.”

“I’ll be the only woman.”

“Is there a shul where you won’t feel uncomfortable.”

“Well, the truth is we have a balcony in Avi’s yeshivah, so it probably wouldn’t be that awkward. Still, it would feel funny going during the week.”

“Rabbi Salesman suggested it,” Aliza said.

“Well, maybe,” I said.

Should I tell her the other thing he suggested? I hesitated.

“There was one other thing he said to do.”

I could picture Aliza’s gray eyes lighting with hope for me.

“He suggested we contact Ozer and offer to take on a foster child.”

“Wow, that’s a big thing. Are you considering it?”

“I don’t know. I mean I imagine kids with issues, and I just don’t really want…”

“You have a lot to talk to Tatty about,” Aliza said.

“When are you coming to Miami? I need you to come,” I said.

“Well, actually, I might bring Basi for an interview in the spring. We’re considering sending her to high school in Miami.”

“I thought you just home-schooled everyone.”

“High school is different.”

“Please tell me when you’re coming. I’m so excited.”

Just then, a call from Avodas Hashem Yeshivah, whose name flashed on my screen.

“Aliza, I’ll call you right back.”

That was the kiruv school I’d interviewed with a few weeks ago.


“Is this Mrs. Perlman?”

I recognized the voice of the principal, Mrs. Fine. It was a small kiruv school and I hadn’t really wanted the job. It wasn’t a high salary, and the building was run down.

“We would like to offer you a position as literacy coach. You’ll work with grades 2-7. ”

Literacy coach. That was the job I wanted, but not at that school. Seventh grade – whoa, that wasn’t for me.

I’d wanted a bigger, more established school, and I definitely didn’t feel comfortable going into seventh grade.

“We would like you to start on Monday at the salary I mentioned in the interview.”

It was a very low salary.

Now, it’s not so easy to start in February,” the principal said. “The teachers need a lot of guidance. They will appreciate your expertise.”

I hoped she was right about that.

“Oh, and…” she paused. “We will need you to do a double period in the second grade. We haven’t found a replacement teacher for that class yet.”

Two periods in one class and no teacher. I was going to be a glorified sub. She waited to the end to mention that small detail.

I was going to ask what happened to the teacher, but I decided it wouldn’t sound polite. Still, I wondered why they didn’t have a teacher in February.
I heard myself say, “I actually prefer mentoring the teachers.”

“Yes, and once we have a new teacher, you will do just that. So, can we have you start this week?”

“Thank you so much. Uh, I have to discuss it with my husband.”

“Please get back to us as soon as possible. We do have other candidates.”

“Yes, thank you.” I wondered who else would want this job?

A few minutes later, the phone rang. “I’m Ronnie Applebaum.” She had a sweet voice. “I want to welcome you to our school.”

“Well, I didn’t––”

“We are so excited that you are planning to come. Our first-graders really need writing skills. I’m the first-grade teacher. I’m so excited to have you come to our class.”

“Thank you, but I don’t know if––”

“Call me if you need anything and, oh, don’t worry about the second-grade class. Once they get used to you, it will be fine.”

“What’s wrong with them?”

“Oh, nothing is wrong. Just well, do you mind a challenge?” She asked.

I swallowed.

“Look, it’s a small class,” she said. “There are just six students.”

“That’s good.”

“There are learning and, uh, behavior issues.”

“Not good,” I said. “Why do they need a teacher in February?”

I hoped it was a maternity leave.

There was another beat.

“The other three teachers just didn’t have the patience and training…”

Three teachers!?

“I can’t wait to see you at school.”

She hung up before I could say anything else.

This didn’t sound like the right job for me.

To be continued…

Susie Garber is the author of Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).