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DMCs: A Hard Friendship

As told to Leah Greenburg

I felt like screaming after her, “After all I did for you, you are angry at me?!” And that’s where we stand. Like I said, it’s a hard friendship. Or maybe not a friendship at all anymore

Thursday, February 02, 2017

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S ome friendships are smooth and easy and others are hard work, for any number of reasons. This story is about one of those hard friendships.

I have a very close friend, a friendship that goes back as far as the year we were born. We were neighbors, you see, and our mothers were good friends, so by default, when Reva and I were born three months apart, we were instant friends, too. We even have a few baby pictures together, which are always fun to look at.

The funny thing is that I sometimes thought that if not for circumstance, we wouldn’t necessarily have been good friends; we didn’t have so much in common. I’m quieter and she’s quick-witted, loud, and a little sarcastic. But we still managed to be close though we ran in different circles at school.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when things started changing. I suppose it was when her father picked up and left one day when we were 11. Reva was shattered, though she tried hard not to show it. Her mother was working two back-to-back jobs and was always exhausted. Whenever I went over, I could hear Reva’s mother yelling and I just knew that the yelling was even worse when I wasn’t around. You know how it is, everyone is on their best behavior around guests, even familiar ones, so if that’s how she was treating Reva and her brother Yitzy when I was visiting, I could only imagine what was happening when nobody else was around.

I felt bad, but was unsure about exactly what to do. Reva came over for supper sometimes but I could tell she didn’t want to come too often. I think she worried about being considered a nebach. She never talked about her home life, and remained upbeat and funny all the time, if a little distant.

Over the years, Reva’s appearance changed slowly from a typical Bais Yaakov girl to someone I completely didn’t recognize. She dropped out of Bais Yaakov and joined the local public school — I overheard my parents discussing this move, along with the additional shock that Reva’s mother had expressed joy over it because now she didn’t have to pay so much tuition.

My parents encouraged me to continue being friends with her, always reminding me that she came from a difficult home life and I should be understanding and always there for her, without being pushy. I was grateful that my parents trusted that I wouldn’t get tempted by her new way of life. Although to be honest, it didn’t look so tempting at all. Despite her loudest and best attempts at humor, Reva did not look happy.

But enough about Reva. Now let’s talk about Shaindy. Because it was Shaindy who approached me in school one day and said she’d run into Reva at the public library. Shaindy hadn’t kept in touch with Reva when she left our school, and was shocked at her appearance. Shaindy told me that she asked her, straight out, “Reva, what’s going on? Aren’t you frum anymore?”

Reva had woven a sob story about her family being unable to afford the price of tuition at Bais Yaakov, (my eyebrows knitted together because I knew that’s not quite why she left… but I wasn’t going to say anything), and she told Shaindy that she really wanted to go on a particular kiruv trip in Israel during the summer but didn’t have the money for that, either. That was the first I heard of it, but hey, I was on board. Maybe Reva would even come back to Bais Yaakov next year. Shaindy had the idea of privately raising money for Reva to go, but I had a concern: I didn’t think Reva would take tzedakah.

“You know what?” Shaindy said. “Let’s ask her. If she says no, she says no.”

Sure she’d never agree, I broached the subject with Reva myself the very next day and she surprised me by being interested in the idea. “I can’t imagine anyone would give too much, but if you raise $4,000, I will definitely go,” she told me. Why so much? Her passport, the flight, the program, it all added up.

I got straight to work. With visions of Reva back to the way she was just a couple years ago, unpierced, without bold makeup, dressed in tzniyus clothing again, and maybe even back at Bais Yaakov, I sat down at my desk and wrote an open letter to community members about someone needing money for a kiruv program in Israel. I didn’t write too many details but I only have one OTD friend and it was kind of obvious who I was writing about.

Shaindy and I also started running in-school fundraisers: we baked and sold brownies, taking them around to each classroom just before lunchtime. We offered a shoe shine, sold challah rolls, and pooled our babysitting money.

Checks rolled in from various community members and our friends’ parents, and I was so touched and grateful. We put all the checks together in an envelope. It was exciting to see just how quickly the numbers added up; soon we had $400, then $1,200 then $1,800, then $2,000 — half of our goal! What an amazing feeling!

When I ran into Reva one day, I excitedly told her to pack her bags. Sure it was still winter, but she’d for sure be going to Israel that summer. Her eyes were bright.

“Are you serious?” she said, almost in tears, looking so touched. “Then I better get myself a new passport.”

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