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Summer Job: Chapter 37

Dov Haller

“Reimer is really shaking things up, pushing the head staff, actually spending money. It’s like he’s trying to make it a real camp”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

T he annoyance kept growing, like a crack in the windshield, and Barry Penner wasn’t sure why. He left shul after Shacharis, taking the long route home.

A few years ago, after the financial downturn of 2008 and the rise in gas prices, he’d been part of a committee that aimed to help the chareidi community cut back on spending. Penner’s solution had been to decrease car use — to educate people to start walking and take public transportation. Because he prided himself on teaching by example, Penner had even donated his new car, a gray Infiniti, to Someich Noflim.

Since then, he’d taken to walking purposefully, feeling that he was teaching others with each step. The campaign hadn’t really caught on, but Penner had become a familiar sight, his back straight, a faint air of privilege on his face as he offered stately nods to acquaintances from the sidewalk.

But today, the long walk home after Landau’s eight o’clock minyan hadn’t calmed him, and when he stepped through the front door, Devorah felt it right away.

“What?”

Penner shrugged. He wasn’t sure if he could articulate the vague sense of aggravation, but on the way home, he’d pinpointed it as having started when he saw Kassower, who sent his sons to Neos Deshe on a barter agreement (he sold the camp paper goods), coming out of the coffee room.

“Hey Barry, I’m so happy to bump into you. I was going to call you. I figured that since I’ve given you a hard time about the camp over the years, I’ve got to say this too.”

Penner had paused. He’d worked hard on his listening face. He’d read an article on leadership in an old Reader’s Digest at the doctor’s office and someone, maybe John F. Kennedy or Churchill or Einstein or whoever, said that real leaders listen more than they talk. So he’d nodded as Kassower carried on. Yes, Neos Deshe was a bit bland compared to other camps. Yes, many of the staff members were washed up.

Then Kassower lowered his voice. “I have to tell you, Barry, when you hired Chaim Reimer, I thought you were nuts. I figured you had no choice. Maybe old man Levinsky carried on. Or maybe he’s working for free, so it was a money-saving thing.”

Penner nodded again, very much the leader. He had this. “Anyhow, I got to tell you, I’m hearing nice things. I was wrong. My older son is already a counselor, and he says Reimer is really shaking things up, pushing the head staff, actually spending money. It’s like he’s trying to make it a real camp.”

Kassower had put his hand on Penner’s shoulder. “Look, Barry, you don’t just shake off a reputation by buying a slush machine, giving out cholent on Thursday night, and doing mud sliding on the front lawn when it rains. But people notice, the kids notice, the parents notice. Little things, all of them, but they add up. We appreciate it.”

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