"You need to make friends, Kivi, then you’ll finally stop making fun of this place. Once you fit in, you’ll stop being so threatened by everyone here.”

Malky didn’t say Wagner’s name, but Kivi could see the allegation in her eyes. To her, it was clear that Wagner was keeping him from fully appreciating the chevreh in Summit, and from taking his place in the post-Maariv sessions.

“They’re nice guys, Malky,” he said. “They’re not mamesh my type, but don’t worry. I’m a man. I don’t need to make friends. I have plenty of friends, I’m good.”

Malky frowned. He knew what she was thinking. All his friends were from before, old friends from yeshivah who’d known him before he’d been swallowed up, dismantled, and reassembled as a Halb. Part of him wished she would come out and say it, because then he could get aggrieved and she would apologize and the conversation would be over. Getting justifiably insulted was a simple way to win a fight.

She didn’t, however.

“Their wives are really nice and normal, not like you think,” Malky said. “I really want to invite the Sitmans for Shabbos lunch, would that be okay? Batsheva Sitman is so sweet, she has a car-seat gemach that the whole Lakewood uses. It’s really special. I’m going out for lunch with her and some of the others tomorrow.”

“That’s great. Enjoy. But why do you care if I’m friends with their husbands?”

“Come on, that makes it so much less awkward, they expect us to be part of things, to know what they’re up to, you know? It’s hard for me to feel like an outsider. Gitty Karlinsky puts out a baby pool every afternoon and Mendy loves it, they make me feel so welcome there. I just want us to be part of life here, for our family to fit in. We’re not going to be here forever, everyone will move on eventually, but we should make the best of these years. You’re a friendly guy, Kivi, come on, what do you have against these guys?”

“Okay, I’ll try.” Kivi shrugged as he put on his jacket and headed for the door. “When they stand around after Maariv and talk about bottles, they don’t say Glenlivet, but Livet. I prefer a bold cab but could go for a smooth Zin also,” he said in an exaggeratedly passionate tone. “I’m excited to wade into the controversy of whether the Cave is still chal or not. I can’t wait to hear, again, how Bauer was at Independence Garden and the waiter brought him the 2014 Recanti he ordered, and he took one sip and said, ‘It’s not 2014. Check the date.’ And he was right! It’s a major Summit legend. Bauer is a gantze celebrity from it. He nailed the waiter. Hurray.”

She sighed. “Kivi. Give them a chance.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 713)