My plans upon graduating high school in 1985 were less common than those of students in today’s generation. I wanted to come to Israel to learn in seminary. Hardly anyone from Toronto came to seminary at that time. In order for this to work, I would need a summer job to help defray some of the costs.
Almost 35 years later, I cannot recall how I heard that one of the local shuls was looking for someone to work in the shul office, but one June afternoon, I found myself there. The job description is literally out of the Dark Ages. They needed someone to rewrite the membership list on index cards. The requirement was neat handwriting. Yes, you heard me: Write out the entire shul membership on index cards. This was the 80s, and personal computers were only beginning to make their appearance.
I prided myself on my handwriting. In Grade 5, I had had a menacing teacher who had engraved the fear of sloppy writing in my heart. So I was an excellent candidate for this job. Prestigious or not, it paid better than average for a student summer job, and it was the only one at hand (even though I had applied to 27 different government-sponsored student jobs). The woman in charge was pleased with my writing samples, but said that she wouldn’t be able to give me an answer until she interviewed the other candidate waiting outside.
The other candidate was Susan, a nice girl from my class. I was told to wait outside while that interview took place. I overheard the same initial conversation that I’d had. Then the interviewer asked Susan for her full name, and proceeded to ask her if she was related to a certain woman. When Susan answered that the woman was her mother, I heard the interviewer declare, “Oh, of course, I know your mother! We were good friends in high school. The job is yours.”
I didn’t take it too hard. I just needed a job – and fast. In the meantime, it was suggested to me that I approach the Ohr Somayach office in Toronto about scholarship money for seminary. After telling the rabbi about myself and why I was there, he told me that they usually only offered scholarships to people who were just beginning to learn Torah and keep mitzvos. “On the other hand,” the rabbi said while stroking his beard, “perhaps we can offer you a job working in our office this summer. Would you like that?” I jumped at the offer, and about a month later, I found myself working in the Ohr Somayach office for the summer.
Not long after that, the rabbi had a suggestion for me. He wanted to know if I would be interested in a shidduch. He had in mind a special young man who was planning to make aliyah in the next few months. A shidduch? Me? I wanted to go to Israel to learn. I wasn’t interested in getting married. The rabbi didn’t take it as an absolute no and suggested that the discussion could be pursued at a later date. I completely forget about the whole thing – almost.
A few weeks after that initial conversation, the subject of shidduchim was broached once again. I mistakenly thought that the shidduch being suggested for me was with a staff member I had not yet met. When it turned out to be with the young man, Chaim, who was overseeing my project, I was at the same time in disbelief and interested. Somehow I was convinced to date him over that summer.
The summer came to an end and I was packing up to fly to Israel to start my year in seminary. I knew that Chaim would be following me in a few months when he would be making aliyah. In the interim, we kept in contact by writing letters to one another. (You see, my penmanship did come in handy after all.) After almost four months of long-distance correspondence, Chaim finally fulfilled his dream of making aliyah. As we renewed our courtship, it did not take us long to realize we were a match.
Perhaps Susan had landed the summer job at the shul, but in the end the future was all written up for me.