I wasn’t always frum. I didn’t always eat kosher. I didn’t always dress tznius. Growing up, I had my favorite pair of jeans and loved the McDonald’s double cheeseburger. Crab was a favorite of my mother’s and it became a favorite of mine as well. Shorts and a T-shirt was the way to go in the summer time. That’s the way I was raised. But when I turned 13, everything changed.
I was sent to a sleepaway camp for $50. My mother, the ever-frugal woman, thought it was a good deal and signed me up. No one gave her the memo that nothing in America comes for free, especially your daughter’s soul. And so, I came off the camp bus as Stacy and walked off if it as Goldie. I loved the community, the friendship and the spirituality. I loved the songs, the idea of a G-d, and the importance of family. Family especially, as mine was shattered after my parents’ divorce. I came from a broken family and a broken childhood. I was shy and quiet, sad and alone. The unconditional love is what drew me in the most. The counselors in camp simply loved me just because I was a Jew, no matter how nasty I was to them. I came in a quiet, not-so-well-behaved girl, and came out a smiling, happy one, so drunk I was on the love I got.
As the years went by, I slowly took on different mitzvos. The first and the easiest for me was tznius. 2 years later, at 15 years old, I stuffed a garbage bag full of my jeans and pants and shorts and hauled it out on the sidewalk. I was left with a couple of long and pleated skirts I got from friends and the local gemach. By the time I was 18 and it was time for me to go off to seminary in Israel, I was covered from my collar bone down to my toes. I loved it. I loved being invisible to men and being protected from their eyes. In my troubled past, I had experienced too many men’s prying eyes, who trampled through my house when my father was at work and my mom stayed home with me. My mother, you see, was a cheater. I was her witness, but I was bribed to stay quiet. I loved being a pretty little girl, but as I would spin around in a flowery dress, I felt him looking at me. And then, to my horror and confusion he would sit me on his lap and hold me close. I tried so hard to wiggle out of his grasp, but he was so strong and so big, it was a lost battle.
The mechitzah was my favorite invention! I didn’t even have to look at those men! I loved it when the men were so frum, they would look down as they spoke to me. I always tried to keep my distance and now with my newfound faith it was a piece of cake. And so, as I prayed by the Kosel, my top button of my button-down shirt from Conway was tightly buttoned. If I felt like it was a bit too much, I used a safety pin to keep myself covered above collarbone. My socks were long, my hair was shoulder length, my skirts were duty length. I was the perfect image of the Bais Yaakov girl.
When I got married, I proudly put on a shaitel. It was a dirty blonde Shevy, the top of the line! So pretty it was, I preferred it over my curly, sometimes frizzy stringy hair. Honestly, wearing a shaitel and being tznius was my favorite thing about Yiddishkeit. The shaitels were so pretty and the clothing so protective, I was just so happy observing this mitzvah.
As the years went by, my heart grew a little colder than its’ previous inspired version. I began to see Jews who were so relaxed about their Judaism, and more concerned about fitting in, than loving Hashem and loving every color Jew, even if it wasn’t the exact same type of Jew that they were. I started hearing divisive words such as Yeshivish, Modern, “regular” , Litvish, Sephardi, Israeli, and sometimes I even heard “weird”. I couldn’t believe what I had gotten myself into. Suddenly I wasn’t just another Jewish person, I was labeled a Baalas Teshuva. It took time to realize this, but people weren’t color blind when it came who their children played with. Slowly, it crept up on me that there was a ‘type’ and the maybe I wasn’t the ‘type’. My faith faltered during that time. I was very disappointed.
But being still very scared of men, and also on top of that being the artistic type, I got into style. My shaitel was gorgeous, my dresses perfect. My children were dressed, with their matching clothing and their cute little yarmulkas with their names engraved on them, and I was in heaven. Although I began to lose hope in the Jewish people, I persisted with the mitzvah of tznius.
I was on a short trip with my son to Deal New Jersey, when I realized that I forgot my snood. As much as I looooved my fall, it was a heatwave and I was getting readily uncomfortable. What’s a vacation without your snood! I ran to every store on the 4 block strip that was owned by Jews. I could not find a single snood or even a scarf. I saw a lady with her hair covered and ran over to her in desperation.
“Do you know anywhere I could get a snood or a scarf?!” I asked panting from the heat.
“Call Mary Gindi. She has a gemach. It’s in the zechus of a girl to find her zivug.”
Mary?, I thought. Does not sound very Jewish. Maybe it’s short for Miriam. Regardless, I called the number and spoke to Mary. She texted me her address and I was there 10 minutes later. She welcomed me into her home and let me pick out a scarf. Her smile was warm, her manners gentle. Her kindness evident. She didn’t care what “type” of a Jew I was, she was there to do a mitzvah: make sure I was comfortable by giving me a scarf to replace my sticky fall. I picked out a black one with sparkles. It was beautiful. I thanked her a million times as I backed out the door in awe.
“You see, Shlomo, there are good Jews in the world. Mi KeAmcha Yisroel. This could not happen with anyone else!” I told my son as we drove to our hotel.
I posted this story on a Facebook Group Jewish Women Talk About Anything and added a picture of myself in the scarf relaxing by the pool. Now I have posted tons of posts in the past on various topics and the most likes I ever got was 70, and I thought that was a lot. Over the next 3 days, my story got over 500 likes. I was floored. Jewish women all over the globe were thirsting to hear an inspiring story like this one. Just like my heart felt colder so did so many others’. We all wanted a happy uplifting story and we all fell in love with Mary and her kindness as well as the father of the girl in search of her zivug hagoan who donated these scarves as a zechus for his daughter.
This was truly a beautiful story! I hope and pray that his girl finds her zivug in the zechus of my wearing the scarf. I have to say, it would have more convenient and less attention grabbing had I worn my fall to the pool that night. But no, I wore my scarf with pride, like a crown upon my head. I was proud to be Jewish that night and happy to be in the service of a G-d who chose such a beautiful nation. If we can take a moment and learn from Mary, we would all be closer to the geula.