It's been a crazy couple of weeks. End-of-year meetings with parents, end-of-year parties, report-writing and what-not. Next week we have a surprise something-or-other at work. It's a secret; all we were told is to leave the hours between 5 and 10 PM open on Tuesday night. Last year there was a guided tour of the Ramparts Walk on the Walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, followed by dinner at Cafe Rimon in the Mamilla Mall. Not to shabby. So I'm looking forward to this year's top secret event.
The end-of-year parties (for the kids, with moms invited) are amazing. These women (most of the gannenot [teachers] and their assistants are chareidi ["ultra-orthodox"]) could be professional party planners. No detail was missed from the costumes of the kids, to the video of them (very hi-tech), to the breakfast spread (beautifully presented, and yummy, of course). There is a hebrew word used, השקעה, hashkaah, which literally means investment. These women fling themselves into these projects, giving everything they have. It was truly impressive.
I've come a long way at work. My hebrew has improved to the point where I get very little correcting. I've made friends (mostly Anglo women like myself) and have become friendly with some of the chareidi women, although I wouldn't say we were friends. I grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so their way of life is not completely foreign to me. Like in every group, there are many individual differences; some of these women are quite modern in their outlook ("He's their father, who else should watch the kids when I'm not here?") and others not ("It's his job to learn Torah, I can't ask him to watch the kids so I could _______"). I've learned the hard way not to discuss topics like Women's Tefillah Groups. Sex, on the other hand is sometimes okay to discuss.
A few days ago the menahelet [principal] pulled me aside. "Baila", she said, "For the upcoming parties, I would like you to dress as tzanua [modestly] as possible." I looked down at what I was wearing: sleeves to the elbow, skirt, well below the knee and--DING DING DING DING DING--open-toed sandals. "Sure." I mumbled. What else is there to say? I choose to work there, I have to follow their rules. Or at least try. (Last year I used to wear very short-sleeved shirts in the summer, but have not put those on this year. I feel uncomfortable. But open-toe sandals? I can't give those up).
We had a meeting with some parents to discuss the child's transition from our school to a regular school. The child is three-years-old, very bright with a motoric impairment of the legs. He is from a chassidish family. He will be attending a regular "cheder" (yeshiva) classroom in the Fall, with a "shadow". The chassidish father was extremely intelligent, asked good questions and made excellent observations; he made eye contact with all of us (women). When the shadow was brought in (for training), he was obviously very uncomfortable. His eyes were cast downward throughout the entire meeting. He also had good questions and comments, but he clearly was less comfortable. Again, two men from the same background, with seemingly different outlooks on behavior.
Well, I better leave now. Today I have reports to write. In Hebrew.
Piece of cake.
The Stuff That Lasts, Part Deux
5 weeks ago