April 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 16 summary: Shani visits her grandfather in the rehab center together with Ari and Debbie, and while there she asks Larry for $5,000 to buy new cosmetics for her business. To everyone’s shock — and jealousy — Larry agrees.


 

“Erev tov, welcome.” Ilana smiled as she handed the woman a ticket and change for her 50 shekels, and nodded her into the library’s lecture hall.

“Nice turnout,” the volunteer sitting next to her at the table commented. “This evening should bring in a nice amount of money for the library.”

Ilana nodded. She’d never met this woman before, a younger lady who’d introduced herself as Leora.

“It’s so nice of you to help out,” Ilana said. “Do you volunteer here often?”

“No, but I saw posts that they were looking for volunteers for tonight’s lecture and I figured why not?” She added, “What about you?”

“I’ve been running the children’s after school reading groups for years. Have you ever been to it?”

From the way the other woman’s face clouded over, Ilana instantly knew— and wanted to kick herself. How could she, of all people, have been so insensitive?

Eyes downcast, Leora stammered, “No. I – uh – don’t have any children.”

“I’m sorry,” Ilana said softly, “That was really dumb of me to assume.”

She was interrupted by a group of people who’d just arrived to buy tickets. After dealing with them, she turned to Leora. “I’ve also gone through fertility issues. It took me three years until I had my twins.” She swallowed. “And another 15 years of failed treatments until I finally came to terms with the fact that they would be my only children.”

But had she come to terms with it?

Leora looked at her. “At least you have your twins,” she mumbled. “After three years. I’ve been married seven.”

The pain Ilana saw in her eyes was oh so familiar. “Yours will come, too,” she said, though she knew there were no guarantees in life.

Leora sighed. “I know, I know, I need to have bitachon. Hashem will send me my baby as soon as it’s the right time. But …”

“But it’s so hard, especially when you see everyone else having babies so effortlessly.” Ilana put a hand on Leora’s arm as a new group of people arrived. “Listen, here’s my number,” she said, scribbling it on a piece of paper. “Please call me if you feel like talking. Fertility is such a lonely struggle; I know how helpful it can be just to have someone to vent to.”

***

Ilana was thoughtful as she let herself into the house after the lecture. Leora had clasped her hand gratefully as she’d said goodbye and told her shyly that she was going to be in touch.

Danny was still awake, reading something on his laptop. Matan, who’d been lying on the couch, stood up and stretched as she walked in.

“Good, Ima, you’re back. Can I take the car? A group of us are getting together at Nir’s house in Yad Binyamin.”

She frowned. “You’re going out now? At 11 at night?”

Matan flashed her a disarming smile. “The night is young.”

Hesitating, she looked at Danny. He shot her a look that said, He’s 18 years old, Ilana. Sighing, she handed her son the car keys. “Please call me when you get there,” she said, which induced a major eye roll and an indulgent, “Of course, Ima.”

After he left, Ilana said to Danny, “Are you up for a walk?”

Danny raised an eyebrow. “At 11 at night?”

Ilana laughed. “Well, you know, since we don’t have the car …”

As Danny obediently stood up and followed her out the door, Ilana thought about the topic they’d been dancing around recently. Despite her husband’s several barbs about her anthropology degree, she’d avoided taking the bait. Why? She wasn’t sure.

Now, breathing in the gentle night breeze, she decided to take the bull by the horns.

“Why are you so against my going back to school for my Ph.D.?”

Danny looked at her. “I’m not against your getting a Ph.D.”

Ilana pursed her lips. “Come on. You said it yourself. ‘Now that you have the money to follow your real dreams, will you give up this anthropology business?’”

He held up his hand. “Right. I don’t think you should be getting a degree in anthropology.”

“Why not?”

Danny walked silently for a moment. Then he said, “Do you think it’s the right thing for you? Diving deep into a world of leftist university professors and a subject that’s known for its anti-religious and anti-God worldview?”

Defensively, Ilana responded, “Please, people used those same arguments on me 20 years ago. I remember Yaffa yelling at me for three hours straight about how could I subject myself to kefirah.” She chuckled. “But it was fine.”

That wasn’t quite true, she admitted. There had been plenty of problematic views discussed in her college classes, plenty of questions raised. But wasn’t that all part of being an intellectually honest Jew in the modern world?

“I mean,” she amended, “Even if the classes weren’t all kosher, I did okay. And then I was a stupid 20-year-old, not the wise 40-something I am today.” She gave a little laugh.

Danny shook his head. “Exactly. Now you’re wise enough to know better.” He stopped walking and turned to face her. “Ilana, why in the world would you want to place yourself in such an environment? The views you’ll be exposed to, the people you’ll be exposed to! Don’t tell me it won’t affect you, because it will! And what affects you affects the rest of our family! Me, Matan, Moriah!”

Ilana was silent. She’d never seen Danny so deeply earnest. “You — you’re really concerned about this.”

He nodded. “Aren’t you?”

Was she? It certainly hadn’t felt good when Dr. Goldfarb had forced her to change her research project in a direction that made her uncomfortable. Nor had it felt good to walk through the university campus and feel like she’d entered a foreign country. But was that an excuse to avoid them and remain in her own comfortable bubble? Wasn’t the whole point of her work to unite the disparate groups in Israeli society?

As long as it complies with the university’s “values of ethnic diversity and inclusion.”

Was this what she wanted? What did she want?

She burst out, “All I want is to do something meaningful with my life! Something impactful!”

“And this is the only way to do that?” Danny pressed.

“Yes! Because getting a doctorate means I can command respect as an expert and people will actually listen to me and my opinions!”

“Really? But there are lots of people out there whose opinions are deeply respected, even without Ph.D.s. And there are a lot of organizations making a huge impact on society whose heads probably never even went to college.”

“Riiiight.” Ilana gave a slight shiver as a breeze blew through her light shirt. What was Danny trying to say? That she should forget about changing society on a research level and start an organization instead? But what kind of expertise did she have in feeding poor people or helping the sick or …

All of a sudden, Leora’s face swam in front of her eyes.

“Supporting women through infertility,” she murmured. “And secondary infertility. And, and women who are thrilled to have finally been blessed with a child, but are still dealing with the emotional fallout of their fertility struggle.” She looked up at Danny, who was beaming and nodding encouragingly.

“Exactly!”

Her mind began to race. “There are so many women out there! Yes, there are fertility organizations, but this would be on the grassroots level. Women supporting each other. We’d have support groups, speakers, programs, therapy sessions. Also, special getaways and Shabbatons in hotels.”

Danny laughed. “Ms. Big Dreamer, it sounds like you need to start roping in some major donors.”

Hmm, fundraising? Not exactly her cup of tea. Would she really be exchanging the respectability of a doctoral candidate for having to run around and ask people for money?

Suddenly, she remembered. With rising glee, Ilana shook her head and said, “Only one: my rich parents!”

Ariella Aaron is an internationally published writer with a unique talent for writing stories that are entertaining and thought-provoking, with characters who are eminently relatable. A former resident of northern New Jersey, Ariella has now transplanted her family to Israel, where she is happily living the dream of raising her brood in our homeland.

By Ariella Aaron

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles