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Blood Brother

As told to C. Rosenberg

“I hear you’re looking for a manager,” my brother Benny began. His words rushed out — a sure sign that he was nervous. “The zman will be over in another few weeks, and I can start immediately.” Word had spread fast. The small printing business my in-laws had generously helped my husband and me set up when we married had grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. It was time to hire a manager, freeing me to devote my time to my large family. My brother assumed that he was the best candidate. On paper, h

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

red dollar billWhy would I hire a stranger over my own brother, when he was the perfect candidate? What kind of sister would do that?

Me. That’s who.

I spoke to him plainly. “I know that by attending these night classes you’re honing your natural business sense. I’m sure that whoever hires you would be lucky.” I took a deep breath. “But that person won’t be me.” Benny hung up with a soft click.

Though our conversation had ended, the story was far from over. I had no time to dwell on it, however, as the Yamim Noraim were approaching, and I was still working full-time. Additionally, for the first time in my ten years of marriage, I would be hosting my prim European in-laws for Yom Tov. The pressure was on.

Time did not stand still, and amid my best efforts at getting my act together, my in-laws arrived. As did Benny. If he couldn’t get through to me, he hoped to charm my in-laws into giving him the job. After all, the business was set up with their investment and advice, and they had the last word. That very first day, Benny came by “just to say hello,” as he put it. As Yom Tov continued, he managed to meet with — and charm — my in-laws almost daily.

After Yom Tov, my father-in-law wanted to be shown around the business and examine the books more closely than he could from several thousand miles away.

“We most definitely need someone to help you out here,” my father-in-law confirmed when I showed him the order books. “A competent, full-time manager who can keep an eye on the work floor and oversee the employees.”

We sat together in my office, but I gave my father-in-law my chair. It felt strange to be sitting on the other side of the desk, playing with the paperweight the same way my employees did when I needed to upbraid them.

“Benny fits the bill,” my mother-in-law said, in her slow, accented enunciation. “He’s trustworthy. He’s likable. He’s smart. He’s good with people. He’ll get along with the workers.” The words rolled off her tongue so easily, I was beginning to think they’d been rehearsed. “This arrangement should dramatically decrease your workload. If the workers know that someone else is on top of them, you’ll be free to keep your own hours.”

It felt strange, perhaps even callous, trying to dissuade them from hiring my own brother. “I think Benny is wonderful,” I said, hoping beyond hope that they would understand. “But I don’t like the idea. You hear all these crazy stories, of siblings who were united in business one day, and are feuding in court the next.”

“Nah.” My father-in-law downplayed my fear. “We know your family — none of you are that type. Anyway, Benny would be a paid worker.”

 

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