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Between the Cracks

As told to Miriam Schweid

I was quiet. He continued. “Tzippy is going through a rough time in Yiddishkeit, and apparently you caused it. She doesn’t want to forgive you

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

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JUST THE GOOD GIRL “You know why I did it? Not for her. For me. I didn’t have anybody else to speak to!” she spat. “I was a nobody. And my mother… she’s just sweet. Also a bit of a nobody. I was just the good girl. The eidel girl with the eidel mother who had no one to stick up for me. I was the girl who was just part of choir and who got no mention at graduation.”

I see the cracks grow longer and wider as the years pass and the student body increases tenfold. There’s so much more space to fall between them. Since my second year of teaching, I measure success by how many girls I manage to pull from between the cracks. Each of those names is a zechus for refuas hanefesh for Tzippy.

Tzippy and I weren’t even classmates, just grade mates. I barely knew her name, but Tzippy knew my name and hated it — both first and last. She hated the way if someone said my name everyone knew who I was. “Oh, Shevy Greenbaum? The one who had the lead role in the school play and won the writing contest? She’s sooo nice.”

Meanwhile, I was occupied with my own set of teenage struggles, and I never thought of myself as popular or someone to be jealous of. So when a prominent rav in the community contacted me one Thursday during my second year of teaching, I had no clue what he wanted. I detected a note of accusation in his voice when I affirmed that I was indeed Shevy Greenbaum.

“Do you know Tzippy Schwartz?”

“Tzippy? Um, I think I do. Vaguely.” I had seen her at a wedding a few weeks before and had noticed that her blue eyes were barely visible under her makeup. Her hair was both lighter and darker in different places than I remembered it. But I might have been wrong.

“Hmm. Only vaguely? Well, she seems to remember you well.”

“Okay. Can I help you with anything?”

“Actually, I want to help you. You know that having a person carrying a grudge against you is damaging.”

I was quiet. He continued. “Tzippy is going through a rough time in Yiddishkeit, and apparently you caused it. She doesn’t want to forgive you.”

I forced myself to breathe. My mother was at the table, intrigued by the name on the Caller ID, and was making inquisitive faces.

“Um… Do you know why she said that?” I asked

“You hurt her in school in the younger years.”

“Younger years? I was only her classmate until sixth grade. What did I do to her?” The phone felt clammy in my palm. I had been a nice, fun kid in school. I wasn’t sure who Tzippy was anyway, and now I was being blamed for making her go off the derech?

“You know, you might suffer later in life because of this. I’m giving you a chance to rectify the situation.”

“I — I don’t remember much. Can you maybe tell me about a specific story?”

“She says there was something in fourth grade.”

The only thing I remembered from fourth grade was that we had two official class bullies that scared the living daylights out of me every day. And I wasn’t one of them. Something was wrong with either my memory or Tzippy’s.

“So, how do I go about asking for mechilah?”

He set up an appointment in his office for Motzaei Shabbos.

I was sure he had the wrong number. I made a mental list of every single memory I had of her. We had been partners in a skit in fifth grade. I had noticed during 12th grade how kind she was to a girl in the grade from an underprivileged home.

Otherwise I came up blank.

Definitely nothing that needed forgiveness.

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