Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What is a 'Mentsch'?

Recently I had an experience where I was 'given a lesson in what is a mentsch.' These are words of the person who defines herself as a mentsch. Let me tell the story from the beginning and while I had known this person from 1973, nearly forty years ago, this story starts in around 1992. I was separated from my ex-husband who was wanting money for a gett. Not enough that I was ripped off blind during the two and a half years of our marriage, he was also anxious that I would pay dearly for our divorce emotionally and financially. He was that sort of person and I guess that is why I am no longer married to him. He actually predicted the event two weeks after our chuppa, when he told me that we would be lucky to last two years of marriage. I was shocked at the time and spent the night in tears, thinking 'how could he say that?' Little did I know what cruelty he was capable of. But then opinions differ as some one else told me 'How come you split from X? He has a heart of gold!'  I declined to answer as such is none of anybody else's business and bit back the retort that was springing to my lips,'Pity he does not have a warm, good heart. That is preferable to a heart of gold, which is cold and metallic.' Obviously we were not suited and he might be far warmer to a person that he likes. I realised later in the peace that he did not like me and hence his abuse - called me a stupid farm girl and much worst.
Anyway to cut a long story short, I borrowed money to pay a couple of thousand $ for my gett and this so-called 'friend' went guarantor. I had imagined that I would be teaching and it would be paid off in no time. However as events panned out, I took a package from the Victorian Teaching Service and later went to Israel. I reasoned that I could continue payments from there as there was less than two thousand to pay back at that time. My biggest mistake was not to pay out the whole amount and be done with it before I left for Israel.
In Israel I was ripped off several times. The most notable time being with an Israel Yeminite girl who was going out with this non Jewish German guy.  I paid this couple several months rent in advance and moved into this flat near Rabin Square. Two weeks later, the landlord was throwing us all out because the rent had not been paid. I was actually almost catonic with shock that someone would do something like this. Not today however. I have come to expect startling dishonesty in others and the latest event I will relate with this friend has shaken my faith in people for all time.
Thanks to Tamara of Daniel School of Foreign Languages on whose couch I slept for nearly two months and who stored my belongings in the school storeroom at Beit Jabotinsky in Rehov Melch HaGeorge, I survived without ending up on the streets. I finally was able to get into a flat and needed $1,000 bond for it as well as the two months rent in advance that I had saved up over the time. I did also give Tamara some money too, as she was also a single parent and I did not expect to stay there for nothing. I borrowed $1,000 from my brother in America and put it into a bank account to secure the flat and gave the rent to Nitzan the guy whose flat it was who was going overseas to South America for six months. Anyway after I am in the flat I ended up romantically involved with someone who paid my fare to England as we went over there to visit his ninety six year old father. We had intended to get married. All of a sudden I get rather offensive phone calls from my sister in law in America and stern calls from my brother about this $1,000. I was accused of
1. Attempting to rip them off
2. Reminded that I had ripped off my 'best friend' ( it was interesting to understand that I had never intended NOT to pay her and was very upset that I was in a situation that I could not pay her.)
3. Told that I must pay back the $1,000 IMMEDIATELY or else I was just going to rip them off and when I told them it was in a fixed deposit for six months and it is difficult to break and they would have their money at the end of February, they did not believe me and I was subject to abuse and quite vile language. I retaliated and told my sister in law if her and my brother's children had her as a role model of behaviour they would end up being pigs.
4. She also rang my then fiance and told him some things about me whether true or not I will never know but he broke off with me and we did not part on the best of terms.

I did break the fixed deposit and sent them back the money which they have never acknowledged that they received it, despite me asking several times after that if they had received the money. I even asked my mother if they had received the money and she informed me that they want a suitable apology from me before they would ever speak to me again. We have not spoken since 1996 and are unlikely to do so ever again in keeping I guess with family traditions in our family where feuds run deep and bitter for the lifetimes of the people involved. I refuse to apologise to them because I need to know what I have to apologise for and as far as I can see, I do not have to apologise for anything.
My mother had informed me that my sister in law has the memory of an elephant and that I should never have called her children 'pigs'. I actually am not sorry for what I said. She actually said a lot worst to me about me and my family. If anything I am the one owed the apology.  Now the type of people they have proved themselves to be, I really do not want one and think my life is enriched by having nothing to do with such people.
I was told that this 'old friend' rang my mother in Queensland with some story and if my biological family did not have enough grievances against me, they now had another grievance to add to the many real or imagined ones that they could add to the case they have built up against me to justify their opinion of me as this criminal drug addict, prostitute, religious fanatic etc, etc etc. It is nice to know that one is loved dearly by one's own family to the extent that they will even make up stories to endeavour to get one into as much trouble as possible. Excuse me for breathing at times. It upsets people that I am even alive at times, I feel.
Anyway to cut this long story shorter, when I eventually did get back to Australia I endeavoured to pay this woman back the money plus interest. It was one of the things that I told my ex husband, the second one, that I owed money to an old 'friend' and I was honour bound to repay it. I ended up paying her $1,600 cash and cheques which she never receipted and I do know the reason why because she had been telling people that I owed her $10,000 then $20,000 and before I know it the debt could be blown out into tghe $100,000's. Once when I asked her why are you telling people I owe you this massive amount of money and her reply was weird. 'Oh, she replied quite casually, 'When a sand fly bites you, you always say it is far worst than it really is.'
She rang me out of the blue one day a few months back and asked me to do some editing work for her. She is a barrister and a nautropath. I kid you not. She is shrewd and very dishonest, but considers herself a real mentsch. I would love to publish some of her emails to me in light of what she said to me and what she did and how she considers herself much more of a mentsch than 'any religious person.'
We agreed on a price and I was to edit 80 pages of a text for her. She had 'had trouble with another editor' I was told. In light of the way she behaved with me, I am not surprised. The price was cheap and the pages were single spaced and in eleven point font, but in view of the fact that it was a long overdue debt and she was supposed to be a friend, I overlooked those details. I was just glad of a way to pay her back the money and yes the original amount was doubled but what is a few thousand between friends. Anyway she had time constraints and I agreed to work within those to the best of my ability considering I had just started back working four days a week at a school. I was to pay $1500 off the old debt and to receive a $500 cash payment plus, now get this, a $250 bonus. She must have been laughing and smirking all the way up her sleeve at me when she wrote this to me in an email. I was also glad of the money that I was going to put aside for rent and use some money to get some things for Rosh Hashana. What I did learn from this is to always invoice in advance and never trust anyone in business, even old friends, just as I learnt never to trust husbands as well. Love never reaches to the hip pocket.
During the time I worked for her, I had sometimes up to six or seven emails a day and some of them, plus the phone calls were quite abusive. I thought the better of it and thought oh, poor thing, she is so stressed because of the deadlines and the book and  made excuses for her.  She spoke to me as if I was quite stupid frequently and in light of what she later did, I should have been warned.
For example, 'Oh, Ilana, you JUST don't get it do you? I am dyslexic. I just can't do this.' 'Oh, Ilana, you just don't get it, do you? You know I have a deadline for this and you are taking too long on this. I want chapters 1, 2 and 3 by Friday... because, you just don't get it, do you, I aaammm dyslexic!' Now her spelling was off and don't ask me about her expression. I found myself wondering how did she manage to pass her law assignments, let alone the bar exams. We went from doing a full structural edit with grammar and expression to just a skim through without mark up on the bare basics of the text. Frankly I was feeling really annoyed and thought to myself, if you do not want a proper job find someone else, but for the reasons mentioned above, I persevered and thought ok, it will soon be over and I will have paid back most of the debt and good riddance to her. I almost feel now that she was trying to set me up so she could slag off about me afterwards.
I did get the work in on the Tuesday before Rosh Hashana and it was done despite her bad language and BS that I had to deal with. Being busy with yom tov arrangements I did not hassle for the money but I did tell her that I had to pay rent in early October and could I have the money then. You have guessed it. She did not pay me a cent and she was quite gleeful about what she did. Who cares that a single mother and a child are turfed out of their flat because they are late with rent. Not this woman who is both a nautropath and a Barrister. She is actually quite proud of what she did, because as she told me, she is a mentsch.
This is her text to me unedited.

Dear Ilana

you odviously did not understand a word

you are outrageously abusive and have few morals or ethics

to say that you are jewish and religous is an insult to

the majority of us you can never be one because

you don't have the heart head or morals

and you are being such a bitch because you owe me money

and want to make sure we are not in touch to escape your responsibility


ruined my business reputation and financial record by going

bank-rupt  and fleeing to Isreal without even saying good-bye or sorry

you have no remore for all the problems you have caused me

and you have little or no undertanding of the 10 commandmentes

nor of shabas or anything - it is all an out of control performance

Religon it really an excuse to bludge of and take your problems out on others

your abuse and approach disgusts me

how could you even think that a barrister would post stuff about you on the net

you really think you are so important - but you have obviosly unspet someone

to have them unpleasant stuff about you

And the bit about me fleeing to Israel is rich. I did not flee to Israel. I did say goodbye and after this email, plus another, where she bangs on about religion and how 'I am supposed to not see her as a good person and I am supposed to believe myself too good for her,' I then received an email about a show on narcissistic personalities. I started to laugh. This is not for real. The only one trying to escape her responsibilities or commitments is yours truly.
I did go to Israel quite heartbroken about my failed marriage and other reasons, but I did not go to escape any responsibilities. What does she think?  I would go to Israel to avoid paying just under two thousand $. She has got to be kidding. She is the narcissist thinking that my making aliyah to Israel was all about her and my debt of just under two thousand to her. It had more to do with an abusive ex husband who was spreading a lot of loshon Hara about me and making my life impossible here.
So if she is what is a mentsch, then I am a monkey's uncle. She had also sent pictures of a certain part of her private anatomy to a Jewish guy who shall remain nameless, and his non Jewish girl friend who was converting, just before I left for Israel in 1994. A mutual friend tried to ask me to talk to her about it. I declined because I know her too well and so I tried to defend her as being the only daughter of two holocaust survivors and telling this person to go easy on her because she has issues and just try and see her good side and literally defended her. I am not sorry I did, but after her latest attack on me, I shall not do it again.
Considering the way she has behaved at times towards her parents, it is hardly kivod av ve im.
I also feel her book will not do well, as when you thieve from someone in order to get what you want, the score is evened up elsewhere. They say you do have to come back in another reincarnation if someone owes you money and deal with that person again. I believe my debt to her is pretty well paid up now. If she owes me anything, I guess I would say that it is paid in full. I absolve her of the debt and say good riddance. I know I would not want her handling my legal work when you look at the spelling and the grammar, plus the prejudice and hatred expressed in that letter.
I did one thing I am ashamed of and I am doing teshuva for. I rang her and left one abusive message because I had had a gutful of her games. I am sorry I lost it, but you know what, I am glad I did because I will never have to talk to her again. On that score, I feel really free and light.

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