The following is a true story of moral courage, of the
uncompromise of values that has become the hallmark of the
Bais Yaakov model of the Jewish Daughter.
Abraham Cohen couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned, too
tired to make the effort to the bar, too meek to wake his
wife. Each time he started to doze, the same haunting image
startled him awake: that of his mother, long since dead,
with an expression of pained sadness, far more tragic than
when she had been alive.
"So, the magnate Abraham Cohen can't sleep!" she cooed in
mock concern. "Maybe the conscience is bothering the honored
"Aw, Ma," he said lamely, "You know I'm good at heart."
"A lot good that did the rabbi you threw out of your office
"Well, no more such scenes, I promise. I've given strict
orders to keep solicitors out."
"Bravo! Brilliant move for the son of a widow who did quite
a bit of begging herself. Except that in my days, they
didn't wait for the unfortunates to get to their knees, only
to be thrown out by the scruff of their necks. In my days
they threw the bag of money through the window, so you never
knew the face of your benefactor. They placed the box of
food at your door so you had no need to be ashamed. But why
talk of the past? Today, everything is high style. Today, no
solicitors permitted entry. Might sully the rug with their
"Oh, Ma. You're being unreasonable."
"Abele darling," his mother sighed. "Time you coined a new
phrase. But come now, there must be something troubling me
sufficiently to disturb your sleep. You know, whatever
happened, your sleep was the one thing I wouldn't tamper
with. First I guarded your precious sleep so that you'd be
the first and the best in the yeshiva. The gemora
kep'l had to be rested. After all, you were the most
precious of all Jewish sons. A nachas! A joy!"
"Even after you sneaked off to work, I still guarded your
sleep. For whom were you making the sacrifice, if not for
your very own widowed mother? How fast your climb to
success! In no time you had become the envy of all Jewish
mothers, the hope of all Jewish widows. Poor orphan makes it
rich! And while your old yeshiva friends grew thin and
haggard on their measly subsistance, you grew fat and bold,
more arrogant with each new venture, more proud with each
new success. You hardly noticed them anymore when you came
to visit me in the old neighborhood. How embarrassed you
were when they greeted you. How annoyed if anyone dared
grasp your hand with affection. After all, you had already
entered a new world where one didn't mix with plain folk. A
world of make believe, where roles were played with such
intensity that the actors were never sure who they really
"O.K. No complaints. I'm also to blame. My precious Abele
could do no wrong. Still, it was easier for me to bame it
all on her. She was the influence that led you astray. If it
makes us both feel better, we'll put all the blame on
"Mama, she's really not so bad," Abraham Cohen protested
weakly, looking nervously towards the other bed. "You know,
Ma, besides all her other projects, Sally makes sure to give
time to Jewish groups alongside the teas, art shows and
literary receptions, many of which sponsor Jews anyway."
"I'm very impressed. Tell me more."
"You never really gave her a chance."
"Maybe you're right, Abie. But I'm not keeping her awake,
either. It's your soul that I'm after. She can host all the
tea parties she wants."
"O.K. Ma, tell me already what you want. You know that I've
never refused you anything."
His mother's laughter was so loud that he again looked to
the next bed. But the hump there neither moved nor changed
its rhythmic sleep sounds.
When Abraham Cohen left the Board meeting the next
afternoon, he was radiant with victory.
"Can't say I did bad, myself!" he told the secretary at his
heels. "Nicest packaged deal I ever initiated. And it's just
the beginning. Take my word. I'll have them eating out of my
hand by the next meeting."
He strutted past the receptionist towards his private office
"Mr. Cohen... Please, Mr. Cohen..."
The first thing he noticed was that the rabbi's hat was out
of shape and that his beard needed trimming. The voice was
deep, almost theatrical, but the effect was ruined by the
long unbuttoned black cloak, tieless shirt and flowing
sidecurls. A hurried glance at his bulging briefcase
immediaely identified him as another collector from the
million and one penniless institutions that claimed to be
the most important to Jewish survival. He'd really have to
take that scatterbrained receptionist to task for letting
him in, or she too would be out.
"But Mr. Cohen, this will only take a few minutes and I've
already been here five times."
The image of Abraham Cohen's mother suddenly reappeared. The
night session with her came back to him in stark clarity.
"Too high and mighty to bother with such people," she now
rebuked him sadly.
He submitted weakly. "O.K. young man. But remember, no more
than a few minutes." He'd let his mother, the suffering
soul, have her way, he thought respectfully. Maybe even, he
thought in a stroke of brilliance, he'd outdo himself to
please her and she'd finally leave him alone.
By the time Rabbi Schwartz left his office an hour later, he
had a check in his pocket to cover the bank deficit and a
promise from Abraham Cohen, manufacturer of LeChic
Sophisticates, President of World Bank, Director of Bradley
Exchange, to personally visit his Girls' Hebrew Teachers
Seminary the next day.
And inside his office, Abraham Cohen was feeling pretty good
about himself. "O.K. Mama," he told his mother, "I'll prove
to you that my heart is still beating Jewish and still in
the right place, too. I'll take the seediest looking
organization and make it shine! You'll see, I'll still give
All Rabbi Schwartz could attribute his success to was a
miracle. Because it surely was a miracle to have finally
gotten to Abraham Cohen and reached through the layers of
steel to his good Jewish heart. But how could he ever have
agreed that the magnate visit the school the next day with
no time even to splash on some paint, screw in some new
light bulbs, carry out some refuse, hang up some window
shades, or at least wash off some of the grime that had
accumulated over the years and made the panes of glass
impossibly opaque. The rabbi called an emergency meeting
with the twenty-seven seminary students.
"You are aware," he started in his beautiful flow of
English, so incompatible with his old-world appearance and
outlook, "of the serious financial situation that our school
is in. The name Abraham Cohen needs no elaboration. May I
merely remind you that the future of this school depends on
the impression you make on him."