The idea for these novellas appeared one summer day in 2004.
"Zalman," the Rebbetzin asked me on shabbos, "would you tell a story to the campers?"
The campers were a group of eighty Hasidic girls, ages ten through fourteen, and their counselors, ages eighteen through twenty. They were spending the summer at our synagogue's sleep-away camp, Chayalot.
"A story?" I asked. "What kind of story do you want me to tell them?"
"Well, it's shabbos, so tell a shabbos story ... or a story about the weekly Torah portion ... or a story about Israel. Come on, Zalman. A Jewish story."
"I'm not prepared," I protested.
She looked at me wide-eyed. "How many stories have you written, Zalman?"
"Over a hundred."
"And you can't remember one of them to tell the girls?"
So by accident, I found myself in a different role than a story writer, where I had a safe distance between me and my audience. No, we were going to be up close and personal. I was apprehensive, and at the same time, challenged to create something those Hasidic girls wanted to listen to.
First, I adapted the series, "The Goldberg Family Conversion" to an oral reading. The response was mildly encouraging.
Then I wrote a new series of stories, "The Rabbi's Daughter," about two fourteen year old girls. One was a daughter of a Chabad Rabbi, the other a non-observant girl. They were thrown together by an accident, and a challenging friendship followed. I read each part of the series using the soap opera format, leaving the outcome of each weekly portion hanging until the next week’s portion. The girls liked that series better.
The Rabbi's Son was the series that followed. It was about the fifteen year old son of a great Rabbi, who was expelled from yeshiva for the third time. I did not expect the girls to enjoy this series as much as the previous, because it involved boys instead of girls.
To my surprise they liked it.
I hope you will too.
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