Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Connection over Kiruv

I asked a girl for directions today, and we ended up chatting through the rest of our shared ten minute walk from the train station.

I felt happy. Not because I saved a soul, not because I helped a secular Jew see the light, but because I made a friend.

Just like Yeshivish Harry says perfectly in his post on being friends with secular Jews, relating to other Jews shouldn't be all about Kiruv, it should be about conection, and caring.

Hopefully, the next time that my ten-minute-friend thinks of Chareidim, she won't think of the men throwing stones in the Meah Shearim, but of a girl who's a lot like her inside, even if she is dressed a bit differently.

And you know what, even if that doesn't happen, even if our conversation changes nothing about the way she views religious Jews, it doesn't matter. Because for a few minutes, two Jewish girls were friends. And I bet that when we were smiling, God was too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chapter 30: A Bottle, a Boy, and a Phone Call

She felt at home here. The polished mahogany tables, the stiff brocade sofas, the gold velvet curtains falling to the floor, nothing had changed in the years since her first visit. The same pictures still hung on the walls in their gilt frames, obtuse splotches of dark paint; she was beginning to find them almost attractive.

The boy was pulling back his jacket sleeve, looking at his watch. He did it openly. He didn't seem to care that on Shidduch dates it was rude to check the time; that it showed he didn't want to be there, with her.

Brachy could have saved him the bother. She was quite aware of the amount of minutes that had passed, and the amount that were still left to be gotten through. An hour and a half was the standard duration of a first date.

His face creased, as he examined the watch's hands. He looked back at Brachy, and at the half full Coca-Cola bottle and nearly untouched glass, on her side of the table. Both his bottle and glass were empty.

"What do your siblings do?" He asked her.

"I'm the oldest" Brachy said. "They are all in school still." Had he not taken the trouble to find out even that basic information beforehand? Or had he not made the effort to remember it?

She saw his gaze travel down again, to the unconsumed beverage. They couldn't leave, until her Coca-Cola was finished.

Brachy picked up the glass, and tried to gulp down the drink as fast as she could.
The hotel no longer seemed welcoming. She could sense when her company wasn't wanted.

He continued to ask the routine questions. She refilled the glass from the bottle, and answered as best as she could, between swallows.

Finally the glass was empty. She rested it on the table, and looked back at him.

He stood up.

The bill was paid, the taxi cab found, the ride passed with polite small talk, and soon Brachy was alone again, standing on the pavement. She could walk down the gravel path, between the trimmed hedges, and unlock the metal door, and press the elevator button, and travel up to home and sleep.

It wasn't late. The date had been short, shorter than usual. The other boys had pretended to be interested in her, at least. Brachy felt tears well up in her eyes. She never cried. She wouldn't cry.

Would she never find a boy who liked her? What was wrong with her? Was she too quiet, too shy? Didn't she smile enough?

Some boys liked her. Avner liked her. He'd said she should call sometime, and they could do something fun. She didn't have to go in straight away, Ima wouldn't be expecting her home yet. She could meet up with Avner first. She pulled out her cell phone to call him.