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Entry 6 -- Phone Calls, Quiche, and Cake
Thursday night, a drifter blew a tire in our driveway. He claimed to be a rabbi and talked like an educated man. I invited him in for supper. He seemed polite enough and he even gave phone numbers and email addresses that I could use to check out his story. I figured he was the real nervy type to think I wouldn't follow up. The last thing small business people in Greenup needed was a conman in their midst.
That is how I end up interrupting a lot of Friday morning cooking to make calls, first to Manhattan where the seminary is and then to Kansas City. The lady at the seminary asks if we were planing to hire Rabbi Aviv "for our synagogue." I laugh and tell her he was here for dinner last night. Unfortunately, one can not be too careful. She then asks me if he is working. I say yes. She asks if he has a congregation. I break the news to her about his job as a security guard. "Poor Naphtali," she complains. "We've been trying to get him to work with our placement service. Things like this happen all the time. He has to learn he's not unique. Poor man. You know his wife divorced him."
"That does not surprise me one bit," I answer.
The phone call to Kansas City is not so pleasant. I speak to a man who runs some kind of computer business. I can hear the hum of an office behind him including an occasional stray ringing phone.
"Naphtali," he refers to the rabbi by his first name. "Was a good man, but way too idealistic. He didn't realize this congregation has to defend itself. That's the way it is where there are almost no Jews." I let the "gentleman" tell his story, thank him, and hang up. I go back to grating cheese for quiche. I realize if I lived in Kansas City, Orel and I probably could not afford dues and Hebrew school tuition for the gentleman's schul.
As I make the crust for the quiche, I realize that I wished that Rabbi Aviv's story had not checked out so perfectly. I know what to do with a con man. A down on his luck clergy person scares me. I'm not sure why. Could it be a call back to the faith I never had. I really meant it Thursday when I said I believed in bikes, kites, and all good stuff.
I am beating the eggs for the quiche when Orel comes upstairs. He glares at me. Their busy in the shop but I've got dinner to get started and hopefully a cake to bake at the same time.
"It's going to have to wait," I tell him.
"Aliza, I know you're busy....what about...."
"He checks out," I reply. "He's a real rabbi who lost a job for sticking up for a church. Poor guy doesn't have a pot to piss in now."
Orel shakes his head and sinks down in a kitchen chair. "No good's going to come from this," he sighs. "I'll get our scholar in residence to fix his bike at least. Come pay day, he gets that wreack out of here. Did you notice it's got real Kansas plates on it. It's bad enough to be mixed up with religion. It just hurts people. That's all it does."
"You know my great grandfather was a rabbi, wanted to put his daughter in an arranged marriage, tie down all his kids but especially the girls. That's why I'm Renjyi not Goldberg or something like that."
I wonder if I have any rabbis in my ancestry. My maternal grandfather is Christian but the other three quarters of my family are Jewish and besides, descent is through the mother. Kippleman, people sometimes ask me and I say I'm Jewish because it simplifies things. I was born that way, but being born doesn't make you believe and besides churches, including synagogues, never preached much I agreed with when I was young. I wasn't the church type. I doubt I am now that I'm in my thirties.
"We won't want what he's peddling anyway," I sigh.
"He's competing with the big boys in Cincinnati and Louisville," comments Orel.
"They have real schuls. People need that if they care enough to get a kid bar mitzvahed."
"Yes, but it's over a hundred miles each way and he's a real rabbi. Security guards don't make much money."
"You say, he's really looking to start something."
"He doesn't have a choice. You have to fight and he'll fight with what he's good at. We're in the line of fire with two boys. They always go for the children."
"We don't have the money for Hebrew school. It's French 4 we want remember and AP French lit-er-a-ture."
I slip the quiche in to the oven. Actually, there are two quiches.
"He won't like being poor," says Orel of the rabbi. "It's that simple. There's work for him if he hustles his butt just one bit and I think he knows how to hustle."
"He doesn't have to hustle," I answer suddenly. "His seminary has a placement service. They'd get him a job."
"Serving another bunch of fat cats who think their shit doesn't stink?" asked Orel. I want to laugh. Then for some reason I can't. It hurts too much. "This is real trouble," I say again. Orel doesn't say anything back. He takes my hand and massages my knuckles. His silence is of course assent.