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cont. Invisible Chains
THE SCHOOL IN
Reisy, what do you think of the new
teacher?" Etty Langfeld asked, taking a
break from pelting her friend Reisy
Lerner with snowballs.
Reisy bent down and scooped up a handful of snow,
which she formed into a ball and threw at Etty, before
glancing across the snow-covered grounds of Migdal
Binah School. A few yards away the new French and art
teacher, Madame Debrett, clad in a heavy camel coat, a
knitted black woolen hat and scarf and sheepskin boots,
was making a snowman, a group of first-formers crowd-
ing round, watching her.
"Well, she sure makes a good snowman!" Reisy com-
mented, jokingly. "She seems sweet," she went on, more
seriously, "but her eyes look sort of sad all the time."
"Well, it's hardly surprising," Etty remarked, feeling
important as the headmistress's daughter, "after all she's
"Oh, I suppose you know all about her. Come on,
Etty, you must tell me everything!" Reisy pulled her col-
lar up and began to stamp about in the snow. The win-
ter of 1947- 48 was the coldest England had known for a
long time and Reisy's feet were beginning to freeze.
"I don't really know much," Etty told her, keeping
her feet on the move as she spoke, "I mean, Mummy's
hardly told me anything, but I heard what her friend
Mrs. Weiss told her when she arranged for Madame
Debrett to come for an interview It's a heartbreaking
story!" Etty drew a deep breath and went on. "You see,
Madame Debrett is from France and her husband was a
doctor. During the war they both joined the French
underground...what did Mrs. Weiss call it?" Etty pon-
dered for a moment, "the French Resistance, I think she
said. Anyway, they were both captured by the Nazis and
tortured a lot..." Etty registered the look of horror on
her soft-hearted friend's face, "...but in the end Madame
Debrett was miraculously rescued and taken to
"And what about her husband?" Reisy asked, "where
"The Nazis murdered him. They told her about it to
make her talk but she didn't. She never breathed a
word about her friends or anyone else in the French
Underground. She must be ever so brave!" There was
admiration in Etty's voice. "Well, when she arrived in
London, Mrs. Weiss's neighbors, the Birnbaums, took
her in and she became frum, putting on a sheitel and
everything!" She sighed melodramatically "It must be so
hard for her, completely alone in the world! She has no
one to talk to, no family or anything!"
"Yes, poor thing!" Reisy threw a sympathetic look
across the grounds.
"You're right...she has been through a lot! But she
seems determined not to show it. Look at her, making a
snowman for the Form Aleph lot. When she probably
feels so depressed and sad! She's a sport, isn't she?"
"Yes, she is," Etty agreed. "I wonder how old she is.
I think she isn't too old."
The bell for the end of break rang out. "Race you to
the door!" Reisy cried and the two girls plodded with
difficulty through the snow, laughing as they tripped
and fell after every few steps. They reached the
entrance to the school building, their faces pink and
glowing, and joined the throng of girls making their way
"You two look as if you have enjoyed yourselves!"
Madame Debrett remarked, in a light French accent.
"It's a pity some of your friends choose to stay indoors.
The fresh air would do them good!"
The two girls smiled with pleasure at this expression
of approval from their new teacher.
"You are Mrs. Langfeld's daughter, aren't you? I saw
you when I came for my interview."
"Yes, I'm Etty and this is my friend, Reisy Lerner."
"A pleasure to meet you, Etty and Reisy," the new
teacher replied solemnly. "I suppose I will soon get to
know all the girls by name."
"Of course you will," Etty assured her, "it's not even
a week since the term. I hope you're going to like it
here," she added politely
"I'm sure I will. I was lucky to get a job in such a
lovely school!" Madame Debrett smiled at her, but Etty
could not help noticing the sadness in her blue eyes.
"I like the new teacher," Etty told her mother that
night, when she slipped into the headmistress's room to
say goodnight to her.
"I'm glad," Mrs. Langfeld said, "we must do all we
can to make her welcome. She's had a rough time..."
"I know I heard Mrs. Weiss telling you about her."
Etty sat with her elbows propped up on her mother 's
desk, her heart-shaped face cupped in her hands. "Don't
worry, Mummy We'll make her feel at home. I think
she'll be a popular teacher. We're having her for French
tomorrow I'm looking forward to her lesson."
"Yes, I think she's a good teacher. She used to be an
art teacher in France, but she can teach French too. And
as you can tell, her English is practically perfect. In fact,
in France she taught English as well as art."
"That's funny!" Etty chuckled, "in France she taught
English and in England she teaches French!"
Mrs. Langfeld smiled and picked up a letter that was
lying in front of her. "Etty" she said, "there's another lit-
tle problem I wanted to discuss with you."
"Oh no!" there was concern in fifty's hazel eyes,
"Not another problem! I thought you had enough of
those last term!"
Mrs. Langfeld laughed, gazing at her daughter fond-
ly "Oh, don't worry! It's nothing like that! No, this is a
different problem. We are getting two new girls next
week two sisters, from Liverpool. The younger one
had an accident almost a year ago and is confined to a
"You mean she can't walk?" Etty stared at her moth-
"But how will she manage here? It'll be awfully dif-
ficult! I don't know why you accepted her. I hope you
know what you're doing!" There was a worried look on
Ett/s face. Why does Mummy always take on these
complicated situations, she thought. She's got quite
enough to cope with.
"Thank you, but I do know what I'm doing!" Mrs.
Langfeld retorted, annoyance in her tone. She resented
being patronized by her thirteen-year-old daughter,
even though she knew it was just concern on Ettis part.
"I heard from Mrs. Bernstein Suri's mother that the
older sister is a responsible girl and absolutely devoted
to her sister. I only agreed to accept her if Fruma the
older sister comes too."
"Oh...I see. How old is Fruma?"
"She's just turned fourteen. And Judy, the younger
one, is twelve."
Etty looked pensive for a moment. "So I suppose
Fruma wheels her around everywhere," she said. "But
how are we going to get Judy upstairs to the dormitory
"Oh we'll manage that. I hear she's quite small for
her age and doesn't weigh much. Two of the teachers or
fifth-formers can carry her up. And don't forget, Miss
Zemmel is a nurse, so she'll know how to look after her.
It was extremely hard for me to refuse," she went on,
seeing that fifty's face still bore a skeptical expression,
"their doctor feels Judy needs the country air."
Etty said nothing but the thought that kept com-
ing up in her mind was that she felt a bit sorry for the
'Are you comfortable, Judy?" Mr. Kleiner asked, eye-
ing his daughter anxiously They had been travelling for
two-and-a-half hours but they were only about half way
through the first stage of their journey as the Liverpool
train jostled its way south toward London. The wheel-
chair, wedged in between two seats, seemed to be
bouncing up and down and occasionally looked as if it
would topple over.
"Well, I do feel a bit queasy but I'll be O.K.," Judy
"replied, determined not to let a bit of discomfort spoil
"I'm sure this journey isn't doing her any good,"
Frumie remarked sulkily She had been sitting with a
glum face for most of the way and although her concern
for Judy was genuine, her pessimism was largely
prompted by her reluctance to go to this school.
"Oh Frumie, don't be such a wet blanket!" Judy
exclaimed. "We're nearly there, anyway"
"Well, not exactly.." Mr. Kleiner commented. "We
won't be in London for at least two hours...and then
we'll have to get to a different station and catch anoth-
er train to Elmsleigh." Even Mr. Kleiner was beginning
to feel exhausted at the thought of all that traveling
and changing stations and trains. He glanced at Judy
and noticed that, although she was chatting happily, she
looked a little paler than usual. He found himself almost
sharing Frumie's misgivings. Were they doing the right
thing? he wondered. It was such an expensive solution.
It had better be the right thing. The school and the
country air just had to be beneficial for Judy! Her acci-
dent had changed everything it had been such a busy
and traumatic year.
Lessons were over for the day and girls filed out of
various classrooms and made their way to the dining
room for tea and biscuits. A handful of girls, including
Etty and Reisy, were still in the hall when the doorbell
"Oh, I bet that's the new girls," Etty said. "Mummy
said they would be here round about four o'clock."
All the girls knew about the girl in the wheelchair,
who would be arriving that day. Mrs. Langfeld had
informed them about it in assembly that morning,
explaining to them how difficult things would be for
Judy Kleiner and her sister and telling them that here
was a chance for everyone to exercise chesed. It was up to
them to welcome the new girls and help them in every
way they could.
Motivated by curiosity, the girls in the hall hung
about, waiting for the headmistress to arrive and open
the door. It was a school rule that the pupils were for-
bidden to open the front door themselves.
Mrs. Langfeld emerged from her office and went
straight to the door, opening it wide. A tallish man with
dark-rimmed glasses and a small black mustache, wear-
ing a black hat over short black hair, and a thick, navy
coat entered, carrying a girl in his arms. Behind him
another girl came in, pushing a folded-up wheelchair,
which she opened up immediately. The man sat the
smaller girl in the chair and straightened up.
"Mrs. Langfeld? I am Mr. Kleiner and these, as you
must have gathered, are my daughters, Frumie and
"Yes, I know," Mrs. Langfeld replied. "Shalom
aleichem\ You must all be exhausted after your long
journey. Please come in."
Etty and her friends, unnoticed in the distance,
studied the newcomers with interest. The older girl
removed her brown gloves and hat and shook out her
short, dark hair. She was slightly above average in height
and the serious expression on her face made her look
older than her age. The younger sister, on the other
hand, was slightly built, with an air of fragility about her.
She had also taken off her hat, revealing long bronze-
colored hair tied back into a pony-tail with a blue rib-
bon. She had a small face with a pointed chin and a
small, turned up nose. The two girls looked so different,
it was hard to believe they were sisters.
Mrs. Langfeld became aware of the girls standing
near the stairs and turned round, ready to reprimand
them and send them off to the dining room. But Etty,
on a sudden impulse, stepped forward.
"Welcome to our school," she said, coming up to
them, "I'm Etty Langfeld..."
"Langfeld?" the two sisters exclaimed together, as
they looked from Etty to her mother.
"Yes, that's right. I am her daughter. But we don't
take any notice of that here. I'm just one of the girls.
You must be Fruma," Etty said, extending her hand.
"Yes, I am," Frumie replied, returning the hand-
shake, "But everyone calls me Frumie."
"Good. That's what we'll call you here then. And
you're Judy," Etty turned her attention to the younger
girl, holding out her hand.
"That's right!" Judy gripped it enthusiastically. "I
think I'm going to like it here!"
"I'm sure you will!" Etty smiled at her encouraging-
ly. She looked across the hall toward the small crowd of
girls, who were standing and watching. "Come over
here," she called, "and meet "
"Now just a minute!" Mrs. Langfeld decided she had
better intervene and take charge of the situation. "They
have only just arrived and they're tired. Let them say
goodbye to their father and settle in their rooms. There
will be plenty of time for them to get to know the girls.
And you are all supposed to be having tea now! There'll
be nothing left if you don't hurry!" In spite of her
authoritative tone there was a smile on her face, fifty's
impulsiveness never ceased to amuse her.
The girls, however, scuttled off immediately. Etty,
hurrying to join them, was thoughtful as she made her
way to the dining room. Something about the two sis-
ters had made a deep impression on her. She thought
about Judy, with her animated expression but her useless
limbs and Frumie, who had seemed pleasant enough
when they had shaken hands, but whose smile did not
seem to reach her eyes. She wondered which of the two
she pitied most.
Jewish children's books-middle grades
Jewish children's books-young teen books
Jewish teen books