And A Child is Born - 1. Brothers in Need
Welcome to the ongoing story of Yonatan and Matan Jenner-Ward. They are trying to lead simple lives as college students but events overwhelm them.
“Hello, brother of mine. The one I love so much. The one who is so kind and considerate and would help his brother in a time of need. You are more handsome, kinder, and probably better equipped than me.”
Todd laughed at Tayloe’s opening gambit.
“This must be important if you are starting our conversation by flattering me.”
“You just don’t know. Apparently, Eron has not spoken with you yet.”
Todd could feel his blood starting to run cold.
“What is wrong? Is something wrong with Erick? Tayloe, talk to me and tell me what is going on.”
“There is just a minor snafu, and since you are one closest to Yonatan and Matan, Eron and I thought you could help.”
“Time is money, Tayloe. You have told me that a million times. Quit pissing on my leg and tell me what is going on.”
Todd heard Tayloe take a deep breath.
“There is a problem. I don’t think we can get married.”
Todd was out of his chair. “What do you mean you don’t think we can get married? You and Eron? What have you done to him?”
“Actually, this affects you and Erick also. The Chief Rabbi has said that we cannot have our commitment service at the National Synagogue.”
“What the fuck?”
“Hmm, Eron has been walking circles around my office for the last hour screaming those exact same words.”
“Does Erick know?”
“Not yet. I decided to call you first.”
“Okay, what is the problem? Is the synagogue already booked, is the Rabbi on vacation, is the city shut down for an apocalypse?”
“We are gay.”
There was silence on the other end of the telephone.
“Todd, are you there?” Tayloe heard whimpering on the telephone.
“It’s okay, little brother. We will work through this. We need a strategy session on how to convince the Rabbi that he should conduct the service.”
Tayloe still heard crying.
“Todd, you are breaking my heart. Please don’t cry. We can work through this.”
“I knew it was too good to be true. What do we do?”
“Eron and I are on the way to Williamsburg to talk with you and Erick. We also need to talk with Yonatan and Matan.”
“Why do we need for them to be in a meeting about our ceremony?”
Tayloe could hear the edge in Todd’s voice when he suggested they ask Yonatan to help.
“Eron has a plan and it will require Yonatan to do something he might not want to do.”
“Tell me. I hate surprises.”
Tayloe finally chuckled.
“I like suspense. You have to wait.”
“You are a mean man. That is probably why you are a good lawyer. Lawyers are mean.”
Tayloe chuckled again.
“Why don’t we meet at the tavern and ask for a table in a corner. The conversation might get a little heated.”
“Let me see if they are available. Both of them always seem to be so busy these days.”
“See you tonight.”
Todd dialed the number and spoke with Matan. He seemed delighted at the invitation and said they would be there with bells on.
“Careful with the bells in the tavern. You know it is very conservative.”
Matan laughed and said that if they didn’t like his bells, that he and Yonatan would buy Colonial Williamsburg and turn it into a gay retreat. They both laughed.
Erick and Todd were pacing in front of the tavern waiting for the others to arrive. Eron and Tayloe walked up with Yonatan and Matan. They were hugging and laughing.
Erick joined the frivolity in hugging his cousin, Matan. Todd's father's questioning led Mr. Cohen to further investigate the Emmanuelson family and discovered that Erick and Todd were related to the Feldsher family through Oscar’s marriage to Rebekkah Emmanuelson. Abraham’s survival was directly attributed to Oscar’s connections in Brussels during the war. Matan said they were kissing cousins, or as they said in the south, fence-rail kinfolks. Matan and Yonatan had many conversations about what that meant for the family's wealth and investments. They asked Monsieur Lambert to help them understand what that meant under both European law and Jewish law.
Judy became an emotional wreck when she and Herbert were told that she had a cousin who had survived the war. She had lived all of her adult life thinking that she was the only survivor of the Feldsher family. Technically, she was correct. Rebekkah was an Emmanuelson and had married into the Feldsher family. Judy didn’t care. Abraham and Rachel found themselves on a flight to Paris. All it had taken was a call from Judy to Yonatan. Yonatan had contacted Etienne and asked him to look after these family members. Etienne was not on that particular flight, but the Emmanuelsons found themselves feted as if they were royalty. Poor Abe was completely undone by the lavishness. Rachel was awed but kept her thoughts to herself.
The long weekend in Paris found the cousins talking for hours. There were many tears shed as Abe had brought a photo album that had somehow survived the war. Judy had all of the pictures copied and took copious notes on who was in each photograph. Judy had discovered family members that she knew nothing about.
Mr. Cohen flew to Norfolk on that same weekend and said he had some preliminary findings he wanted to share with Yonatan. Matan was very emotional after finding that his friends were actually family; he was in favor of splitting everything fifty/fifty. Mr. Cohen suggested it wasn’t quite that simple. Yonatan understood the legal principles at play and suggested there was further research he needed to conduct. Mr. Cohen reminded Yonatan of their first meeting when Yonatan had asked insightful questions. Mr. Cohen smiled and said that Yonatan’s legal brain was sharpening, and he was pursuing the principles of wealth distribution. At Yonatan’s directive, Matan had called Eron and Erick cousins but did not have conversations with them about what that meant, exactly.
And here they were at the tavern having dinner. Yonatan thought the meeting was of utmost importance since the invitation had come that day. He noticed that Eron and Tayloe were quite reserved. He couldn’t decide whether that was because they were lawyers or that there was a pressing issue that needed discussion.
Todd and Erick ordered wine for the table. Yonatan immediately told the waiter that he and Matan would be drinking ice tea. He didn’t want to be carded. They were dressed in suits and perhaps looked of legal age, but he didn’t want to push it. Plus, he wanted a clear head anticipating that there was a meaningful conversation to be had. Tayloe poured wine and immediately gulped his glass. He then poured a second glass. Everyone at the table was looking at him. Eron put his hand on Tayloe’s arm and looked at him; nothing further needed to be said. Tayloe caught the waiter’s eye and ordered a glass of ice tea.
When the waiter said the dinner special was Ossobuco, Yonatan immediately claimed that as his entrée. Matan said he would take a nibble but wanted the filet. Both Eron and Tayloe chose the Dover sole. Erick and Todd chose the chicken entrée. Appetizers arrived, green salads, and then the entrées. The discussion was about school and work.
Matan said he wanted dessert. Everyone laughed, knowing that Matan was a sugar freak and loved desserts. When the confections and coffee were put on the table, Yonatan slipped a credit card to the waiter.
“This has been wonderful.” Yonatan looked at the four men. With three of them, he saw something in their eyes which he could not decipher. When he looked at Erick, all he saw was his usual look of love for Todd. “I have a feeling we are here for a reason other than to share a meal. Anyone care to start?”
Erick asked Yonatan what he meant?
“Ask them. I think something is going on.”
Erick turned to Todd and asked him if there was something he didn’t know. Todd looked guilty and immediately turned to Tayloe. Tayloe turned to Eron.
“As you know, I said I would arrange for everything in Washington for our commitment ceremony and party. This morning I hit a snag.”
There was silence and everyone waited and looked at Eron.
“The Chief Rabbi of Washington said we could not have our commitment ceremony at the National Synagogue in Washington. He said we were gay, and they didn’t allow gay ceremonies there.”
Erick immediately grabbed Todd’s hand and looked into his eyes.
“You knew and didn’t tell me.”
“I just found out, and we figured there was enough worrying without having you upset also.”
“I am now upset on two levels. First, we can’t have our ceremony at the synagogue, and second, my fiancé withheld information from me.”
Todd stared at Erick while trying to figure out what to say.
“I am sorry, I am so sorry. Please Erick, I love you. I just didn’t want you to get upset.”
“Too late for that, don’t you think.”
Erick took on the role of the dispassionate lover. He wanted to know specifically what was said by whom, to whom. Eron recounted the entire face to face conversation before he had been escorted out of the synagogue.
All of the desserts were pushed to the center of the table. No one had any appetite. Todd was quick on the uptake.
“How dare he? We haven’t had a problem arranging for the ceremony here.”
“Actually Todd, I needed to talk with you about Rabbi Schulman. I spoke with him this morning, and he said no.”
It was Todd’s time to be upset with Erick.
All conversation stopped. Finally, Matan spoke.
“Yonatan, you can fix this.”
“How? How am I to fix this problem?”
Matan then laid out his rationale for solving this problem. Yonatan listened, nodded his head, and glanced at his partner.
“People were wondering how it was that we were able to meet with the chief rabbis in Paris and Vienna. I just dismissed it as being nothing more than a trifle, but let me dig further into that. They are Orthodox Rabbis who were welcoming. There has to be a reason for them to meet with us. I think I know what it is, but let me investigate.”
Yonatan told them not to pursue anything until he had made some inquiries.
“This is rather touchy, and we don’t want to back anyone into a corner. We need to give everyone lots of room to maneuver so we get the outcome we need.”
“He’s my husband. He is going to be a lawyer. I love him so much.”
Everyone laughed as Matan leaned over and kissed Yonatan.
The dessert plates were moved again, and like magic, the sweet confections disappeared.
As they were leaving, Black and Green walked up to the group. They were a regular part of Yonatan and Matan's lives and basically disappeared into the woodwork.
“Anything I need to know, boss?”
“Were you listening again? Do I have a hidden microphone on me?”
Black smiled and Green said they would talk later.
The next day, Yonatan was on the telephone to Monsieur Lambert. He felt that Mr. Cohen would hem and haw and not give him a direct answer. He wanted to know the gritty details. He wasn’t surprised when he heard the old adage: follow the money.
“Yonatan, those old geezers were nice to you for a couple of reasons. You brought in a tremendous amount of money and influence. You also gave them heightened prestige in both the Jewish and philanthropic worlds of Paris and Vienna. Don’t think they didn’t go out and tell people how they would be making decisions about helping people in need. Somehow, they elevated their positions in the decision making process. I guess that they have been cutting deals. I am a Jew and wouldn’t talk badly about the Rabbis, but I am also a lawyer. So, there you are.
“How can I convince them to exert pressure, so these commitment ceremonies happen in Washington and Williamsburg?”
“This is going to require more than a telephone call. Do you have some frequent flyer miles you want to use?”
“Geez, I don’t want to fly over right now.”
“My guess is that is the only way this will happen. Also, meet with them individually. You know the power dynamic of two against one. You will lose if you meet with them together.”
Yonatan sighed, “Do you have any good news?”
“Yes, your rooms in my house are being cleaned and decorated for your summer internship.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Yes, I do. Lester is spending the summer also. You introduced us. He will be interning in the law firm also. Redecorating the rooms is a thank you gift.”
Yonatan laughed and said he never thought of himself as a Dolly Levi. They both chuckled, and Yonatan wished Max the best.
“One more thing, make your flight arrangements, stay in a hotel, call the Rabbis the day before you want to meet with each of them. Don’t let them know you are meeting with both. Ask each for an individual intercession. Also, don’t tell anyone you are coming. This meeting has to be covert, or you will fail.”
Yonatan was heavy-hearted when he put the telephone back in its cradle. Black walked into the home office and asked Yonatan whether there was anything they needed to discuss. Yonatan laughed and asked Black how soon it would take before they could depart.
The flight was scheduled for Sunday night. Yonatan told Matan that he had to go to Paris and Vienna, and it was secret. Even from Judy and Herbert. Matan wanted to go, but Yonatan said it would work better if he went alone. Matan pouted and said he wanted gifts from each city. Yonatan laughed and said he would try to make time for shopping, but he had his doubts. Matan then said he needed to coordinate Yonatan’s wardrobe for the trip.
“You need to look European. You should look of them and not like some American hick who has come to town.”
Matan organized everything and put a label on each suit for each meeting. Matan also briefed Black on checking that Yonatan was wearing what he was supposed to. Matan knew that Yonatan would put on a pair of jeans and a blazer and think that he looked just fine.
On Sunday, Yonatan and Matan finished dinner, then Black appeared, and said they needed to leave for the airport. Matan insisted he drive them. Black laughed and said, in that case, Green had to ride also. Black did not want Matan to be on the road alone. Green would also accompany Matan to class for the next two days.
They arrived in Paris on Monday morning and Yonatan called Monsieur Lambert’s office. His secretary notified Yonatan that he had an appointment with the Rabbi that afternoon. She advised Yonatan not to come to the office as Mr. Jenner was in all day. Yonatan decided to go shopping for Matan. Black had Amit, his driver, take them up and down the Champs de Elysée several times. Yonatan was thrilled, pointing out different buildings to Black. At the appointed time, Yonatan was standing in front of the synagogue where the Chief Rabbi had his office.
He and Black sat in the waiting room. Yonatan was nervous and kept reviewing the notes that Monsieur Lambert had prepared. The discussion was laid out in a specific order leading to the ultimate request.
The ass-kissing, as Yonatan liked to think of it, went on longer than necessary. Yonatan talked about the importance of the Rabbi’s voice in the decision making of the foundation. Yonatan listened while the Rabbi talked about his thinking on the best way to leverage the funds. The Rabbi was leading the conversation as Monsieur Lambert had predicted. Yonatan listened and made non-committal noises. Finally, the Rabbi looked at Yonatan and told him that the request he was going to make wasn’t possible. Yonatan gave him a quizzical look and asked what he meant.
“You came today to ask me to intervene so that the Chief Rabbi in Washington would conduct the commitment ceremony for the Emmanuelson twins. I cannot override his decision.”
Yonatan was taken off stride.
“No, monsieur. I came to ask you to conduct the service in Washington.”
Yonatan was making this up as he went along. He hadn’t planned to ask that at all.
“You are asking me to conduct the ceremony in Washington? It is not legal!”
“It is not legal anyway. Gay marriage is not legal in the United States. We are asking you if it were possible for the Rabbi of Washington to let you lead the ceremony he does not want to do.”
The Rabbi looked at Yonatan and then turned his chair to look out the window. They sat in silence.
“Bring your chair and sit beside me.”
“You are asking me to lead the ceremony? What would the people of Paris think if they heard about this? And they will hear about this.”
Again, Yonatan was making up the script.
“They will hear that the Rabbis of Paris and Vienna went to America to honor brothers whose entire family died in the Shoah except for Judy and Abraham. Two great Jewish families who gave so much to the communities of Paris and Vienna. And today, we have two Jewish families who plan to continue to give to these deserving communities. Also, that the Emmanuelson family, a Jewish family, will continue to grow and thrive in the Jewish communities in Washington, DC, and Williamsburg, VA, because both Eron and Erick plan to raise their children in the Jewish faith. Matan and I will raise our children in the Jewish faith. You will be directly responsible for the continuation of Jewish families in America. That is what you say to people who question what you do. You are the link between those of blessed memory and those yet to come.”
The Rabbi sat in silence.
“So, you have already been to Vienna? You have already received approval from Rabbi Herzl?”
“No, sir. I came to you first because I am of you. Matan and I are of you. Have we let you down? Have we dishonored you in any way? No, because I respect you and honor you.” Yonatan took a deep breath. “You will call Rabbi Herzl and tell him that the two of you will travel together to Washington, DC, to conduct the ceremony. You will also call Rabbi Schulman and ask him to conduct the ceremony in Williamsburg. I know that I am asking a lot, but there is much to be gained from this. The Jewish community will thrive because of your generosity and kindness. Perhaps, you can suggest to the Chief Rabbi in Washington that you celebrate Shabbat together the night before. Can you imagine having three Chief Rabbis celebrating Shabbat together in Washington DC? I can assure you that the press will want to talk with all three of you.”
There was silence as they watched the sun going down across the rooftops.
“You are going into the law profession?”
“A good field of work for you. Who coached you to prepare for this meeting?”
“I spoke to Monsieur Lambert, but we went off the script that he had prepared. So, it was basically me pleading my case.”
“You know that the Chief Rabbi in Vienna only likes the best hotel rooms.”
“I can make that happen. If he has a preference, please let me know.”
“I think that he and I should have equal accommodations. It wouldn’t look good for one Rabbi to be at the Hay-Adams and the other to be at a Holiday Inn.”
Yonatan tried hard not to laugh.
“Well, I cannot say for sure. He is a tough nut to crack. I will tell him that if he doesn’t do this, that the Vienna Foundation funds will be turned over to Paris.”
“Perhaps you should have been the lawyer.”
“Perhaps, perhaps. When do you fly back?”
“Well, my plan was to fly to Vienna tomorrow and then back to Virginia. I would prefer to go to Brussels to stay in the apartment rather than going to Vienna.”
Neither needed to talk about what happened in Vienna the last time Yonatan was there.
“Go to Brussels. Leave the old man in Vienna to me. Stand, let me give you a blessing before you leave for Brussels. There is a commuter flight tonight that you might want to catch. Don’t let the Jenners know you have been in Paris and not visited with them.”
Yonatan and Black made it to the airport and were seated in separate sections of the plane. Black was nervous the entire time. Yonatan was exhausted but had good news to take home. When Yonatan and Black finally arrived at the apartment, Black ordered dinner from the hotel they had used before. Yonatan picked up the telephone and made an international call.
“Matan, you won’t believe what happened today.”
You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on. We get it, because we feel it too. Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now