The fellows survived Vienna and now must disclose to Judy and Herbert about the inherited wealth. They also receive a significant clue about who tried to assassinate them.
The next morning, Matan and I arose early and went to the bathroom.We filled the tub with water.I laid back and Matan laid on top of me and I wrapped my arms around him.If we had been at camp we would have gone to the lake.We didn’t have Camp Falls so the bathtub would have to suffice as our waterfront.
“Let’s talk about the money.”
“I don’t know how, Yonatan.What do we say?”
“Can we agree that the money is not ours?”
“Explain what you mean.”
“The money was your great-grandfather’s and his family’s money before him.We are the custodians.It is not ours.We could take some money to live on but our responsibility is to pass it on and to continue the foundations.There are so many possibilities.It is ours to do good.I want to start a foundation for needy LGTB youth.We can name it whatever you want but I have a strong feeling that the need will outlive us.There are so many needs and so many possibilities.”
“Instead of calculating how we can use the money for ourselves, it is just like you to think about helping others.Can we add money to the existing foundations?Many of the young Jewish artists are gay and I would like to help them.I perked up when I found out about the art collection and the foundation for artists.I am excited and want to get started immediately.”
“Let’s have Ayal review all of the current foundations to see if they need additional money.It will be hard to assess given that they have been dormant for so many years.”
“So, what do we say to my parents?”
We both sighed.
“We should be honest and tell them everything we know.We should ask them if they want the money.After all, it really should go to your mother.Then we talk about the foundations and the good work that could be done.I think your mama would be very interested in the foundations named after her grandmother.I can see your papa getting excited about money to help people who want to emigrate to Israel.Or they may say they want nothing to do with it.Sometimes they are hard to read.”
The water was turning cold so we got out and stood at the sink to clean our teeth and for Matan to arrange his hair.He was standing in front of me and I would find myself just looking into his eyes.He would look back at me.“Are we the same people who went to Vienna yesterday?”Neither of us had the answer.
I could smell coffee brewing in the kitchen.Matan and I had dressed thinking it was important to look nice when we had the conversation.Matan said he preferred we eat in the dining room so we would be comfortable giving them all of the information.Judy had cooked a hot breakfast assuming we had not eaten well the day before.She was correct in that assumption.
As we were finishing the meal, Herbert turned to me and asked for an update.I looked at Matan who then said that I should tell them what happened.
I started by listing the people who were present.After each of the several names, Herbert would interrupt and ask their roles in the meeting.I said it would become clearer as we went along.They were not surprised that Monsieur Lambert was present and chaired the meeting.
“You should know that he is the executor of our estates.Judy and I trust him and don’t want you burdened with that responsibility.”
I praised the life of Oscar Feldsher and his generosity.I then talked about Rebekah and her interest in helping Jewish children who needed medical care and rudimentary education.Judy choked up and said that touched her deeply.Tears ran down her face as she embraced Herbert.
“I never knew her.I never knew the good that she did.”
We all acknowledged the existence of the apartment in Brussels.Herbert said he knew it was there but they had not visited.Mr. Cohen had told him it was being used for storage and that it needed remodeling.Herbert and Judy decided to let Matan and me handle that when we moved to Europe.I explained that it was full of artwork that was put there for safekeeping.Somehow it had escaped plunder by the Nazis.The apartment had sat vacant with the building upkeep being paid from an account in Switzerland.The building owner didn’t bother with anything because the payments arrived regularly.Mr. Cohen had referenced a man who had assumed the role of caretaker.
We talked about the house in Virginia and their house in Paris.
“You will get this house.We are putting it in your name very soon.This is the home of Judy’s family and you should always keep it.Perhaps you will outlive the dear landlady so you can do with the house as you please.”We all chuckled and agreed.
Next I asked Matan to talk about the foundations.He spoke glowingly of the foundation to assist Jewish artists.He then said he was confused about the others and I should give the update.I smiled at him knowing where his heart and mind lay. When that foundation had been mentioned he stopped listening to anything else. I talked about the foundations with the Chief Rabbis.Judy was enthralled and said that she hoped we would let her be involved.It was just the sort of response I was hoping we would get.When I talked about the foundation to assist Jews who wanted to resettle in Israel, I saw Herbert’s eyes light up.I knew that he would be the lead.
“Our lives are like Judy’s grandparents.We have the same interests.It is like we are continuing their work without ever having known them.Pay attention, my sons, the Creator of the Universe has decided what we are to do with our lives.We are fulfilling our destiny.”Herbert was smiling through his tears.
I briefly covered the other foundations including the education fund that would pay for Matan and me to go to college.Herbert was happy because he said that the school fees at Norfolk County Day School had practically bankrupted him.I knew that wasn’t true but acknowledged that was his world view.
I then talked about the private funds and other assets.
Herbert and Judy were stunned.They had no idea about the monetary value of the Feldsher family.
“It is your money, not ours. Matan and I have talked about this and we will have everything put in your names.”
“NO!It is yours.Judy and I have sufficient money to live.We do not need it or want it.However, Yonatan, you are not a good money manager.How will you manage a billion dollars, I don’t know?I am worried for you.You spend too much money.You let Matan spend money like it is olives growing on trees.You shake the tree and the money falls down around you.How will you ensure that your children have food to eat when you wear such fancy clothes?I hear you have a sports car of some sort.How will our grandchildren ride in that and be safe?”He was starting to wheeze so I was quiet and let him gradually unwind.
“Let me explain and I think this will help relieve your minds.Matan is an artist.I could see yesterday that the meeting was boring to him except when Monsieur Lambert talked about the art foundation and the art collection.That is his passion.We should not burden him with worrying about the money.Do we agree on that?”
Everyone nodded their heads and Matan smiled that I wasn’t asking him to do something he had no interest in.
“I am not a money manager.”Herbert was nodding his head.“I don’t want to be a money manager.”Herbert started frowning.“I know the person who loves finance work and would be able to add to the wealth of the family.We can trust him.We will ensure that checks and balances are in place to hold everyone accountable.My soul would die if I had to do that every day.Monsieur Lambert has asked me to study family law.Specifically, he has asked that I study family law related to LGTB families.I haven’t said yes, but I haven’t said no.He wants me to join the firm, Herbert.You and I would work for the same law firm.We would do very different work but it would bring Matan and me to Europe.We would live in Brussels.It is a short train ride from here.I could head the family holdings with input and participation from all of you.Judy, this wealth is of your family and I promise that I will protect it and use the foundations for good.I think this gift comes at a time in our lives when we can truly appreciate the importance of what the Creator has given to us and that we can act responsibly.We are all young enough that we can see the fruits of our labor.I will have Monsieur Lambert go over all of this with you so that you can make a decision without pressure from Matan or me.”
I started to rise from the table.
“Please sit down.We understand.There is no need for Lambert to retell us everything that you have said.I have dealt with many people in my life.At times you know when someone is the right person.You are the right person.You are different today, Yonatan.Something has happened to you.I don’t know what and I don’t know how to describe it.You have somehow become the person you are supposed to be.How that happened since yesterday I do not know.We will depend on you, perhaps too much, to make decisions for our family.You will keep me informed.You will keep nothing from me.But, I trust you and your judgement. I promise not to second guess you…..too much. I trust the love that you have for our son and that you are now truly a Jenner.”
We sat in silence.Judy got up and made another pot of coffee and then she talked about the work she wanted to do with the foundation.Her enthusiasm was bubbling over.I reminded her it included both Rabbis and that she would have to go to Vienna.I could see the hesitancy on her part.
“I will try, Yonatan.I will try because you have shown us it was safe.Things change.Vienna changes.I want you with me on my first visit. I promise that I can move forward.”She then grinned.“How much money do I get to spend?”She laughed and told Herbert that she was now free to spend as much as I allowed and that I was a pushover.Herbert rolled his eyes and laughed.He actually laughed.The toothache was healing.
Herbert asked when he could talk with Lambert about the foundation and to start work on refugees wanting to migrate.I suggested that we sit down together and lay out the plan.Herbert said that the Creator had answered his prayers about his work for the Jewish people.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Judy said that we would celebrate Shabbat at the apartment and to invite our fellow compatriots.Matan left to call them.
It was late afternoon when our friends starting arriving.Judy had beautifully decorated the dining room.The table was laid with a highly detailed linen and lace table cloth.She brought out antique china, silver and crystal that had been packed away. She said it belonged to her maternal grandparents and she had never used it.
“It is so beautiful but Herbert and I do not entertain so I thought it would be just one more thing that we left for you and Matan to deal with.Tonight is a celebration so we are going to use ‘my good china’.She smiled and I saw the young woman once again.
Herbert arrived from his office and walked into the dining room.He called for Judy and asked where all of this fine stuff had come from.
“Yonatan gave me his credit card and I went shopping today. Matan and I rushed from store to store to get everything I wanted.”Herbert was about to shout me down when Judy realized that Herbert didn’t understand that she was kidding.“Calm down my husband.When we inherited the apartment, it was packed away.I never brought it out because we never needed it. It is part of what our grandchildren will inherit one day.”
Herbert smiled sheepishly.He apologized to me for what he didn’t say.“I assumed our earlier conversation meant nothing and that you were spending your vast fortune.”
Black and Tim were the last to arrive. We were in the salon where Herbert was making cocktails.There was a knock at the door but we weren’t expecting anyone else.Monsieur Lambert was standing there with his hat in his hand.
“I know that I am intruding but hopefully you will welcome a stranger to join you for the Shabbat meal.”
“You are no stranger, Monsieur Lambert.Please join us.”I took his coat and hat.Matan set another place at the table.We joined Herbert in the salon as he was preparing drinks for our guests.Introductions were made to Zeke and Tim whom he had not met.
After Judy lit the Shabbat candles and offered prayer, we sat and partook of a delicious meal.
Tim helped Black eat since his right arm was in a cast.Everyone offered sympathy on his injury. Tim teased Black about stumbling, falling and breaking his arm.Only Green, Black, Matan and I knew the truth.We then all teased Black. He was good natured about being a security guy but not being able to walk down the street without falling.
During a break in the conversation, Zeke asked Monsieur Lambert about being a gay man in France during the war.There was a collective intake of breath around the table.Zeke’s lack of sensitivity could have been a disaster.However, Monsieur Lambert smiled.
“If I have to tell my story then you should know that my name is Maximillian and you should call me Max.No more Monsieur Lambert.”
He laughed which provided the cue for the rest of us to do the same.He hesitated and then started.
“I lived in a small village in Alsace, which is in northeastern France.Just across the river from Germany.The area had moved back and forth between French and German control for many centuries.There was a small but distinct Jewish population in Alsace.Many people were bilingual speaking both French and German.Of course, there was a local dialect that everyone spoke.So, I guess we were tri-lingual.I was in secondary school when Germany invaded us in 1940.Most people had a comme ci comme ca attitude because the border had been so porous and the area had developed many of its own laws that the state governments let us govern ourselves on a day to day basis.That was until the German government started recruiting Alsatian men for military service.I use the term recruiting very loosely.I refused to be ‘recruited.’ My parents were frightened for me.”
“I had a boyfriend.Hans.He was German.He lived across the river and was raised in a German village.He too was Jewish but his parents were not practicing Jews.In fact, they had changed their last name to try to fool officials.They would only have had to go back two generations to see the name change.”
“We crossed back and forth across the river without much problem. Once the Germans took over Alsace it was even easier to cross the river.One day I was at Hans’ house and German officers knocked on the door.They were there to ‘recruit’ him for the military.He and I had been in his bedroom making love.The officers made fun of us and called us ‘warme bruder’ which was a German term for being gay.It was derogatory.We were both arrested as it was against the law in Germany to have homosexual relations.”
“Because I lived in Alsace, I was taken to the police station in the village where I lived.I was paraded down the street to the police station in hand cuffs.Everyone in the village could see that I had been arrested by the Nazis.My parents came to the police station to try to get me out until they found out why I had been arrested.At that point they walked out and I never saw them again.”
“I was sent to a concentration camp and made to wear the Pink Triangle.I don’t know if it was better or worse to wear the Pink Triangle or the Yellow Star of David.It was hell unlike anything you could imagine.Judy and Herbert know.”
There was complete silences and we looked at Herbert and Judy for their reaction.There was none.
“I was being sent from one camp to another when I was able to escape.I was in Germany and slowly made my way southwest as I was trying to get to southern France and from there hopefully to Portugal.I was thankful for my knowledge of German language as I crossed that hated country.Somehow, I thought if I got to Portugal, I would be taken in as a refugee.I passed from underground group to underground group as I traveled.I felt relief when I was back in France.I connected with a group and stayed with them throughout the winter.It was there that Hans and I met up again.He had been recruited and forced into the military.He had been captured and then escaped.He was against the Nazis and decided to work for the underground.He knew German, French and Polish so he was a valued asset.I no longer wanted to go to Portugal.I wanted to stay with Hans.Most of the people in the underground did not care that we were lovers because we were hard workers.”
At that point, Max’s eyes started watering.
“I have never been asked to tell my story before and this is very hard.”
Max looked around and saw all of us with tears in our eyes.I was sitting next to Max so I reached out and grabbed his hand.He was shaking.
“Hans went out one night on a raid.We were told it was going to be very dangerous.He didn’t care because he hated the Nazis.He never returned.He gave me his wallet before he left because it was important that the Nazis not know who we were.It is the only thing of his that I have.After that, I connected with the Allied forces for the rest of the war.I was used as an interpreter.After the war, I went to the village where I grew up.It was gone. Leveled.It looked like a major battle had occurred where the river crossing had been located but there was nothing left.”
Max then took out his wallet.He pulled out a tattered picture and passed it around.“This was my Hans.Wasn’t he beautiful?”We were all weeping.Matan had his head on my shoulder.I was comforting him.Hans was our age when the picture had been taken.
“Ahhh, I had put a damper on our celebration.I thank you however for letting me tell my story.”
I stood and walked until I was behind Max’s chair.I leaned over and kissed the top of his head.
“Thank you for the gift of your story.”
At that point, each person got up, walked around the table and gave Max a hug or kiss.Judy and Herbert were the last and they hugged him tight.
Herbert looked at all of us and said, “Never again.I pray that we will never again have such hatred against our people.”
Judy wiped the tears from her eyes and asked that we all go into the salon while she and Matan served dessert.
Judy brought out a pavlova covered with fresh fruits.Judy laughed and said that it came from the baker because she did not have time to make it.Matan poured coffee for everyone.
“Luckily, the Chief Rabbi is not here tonight.”We all laughed.
Being in the salon gave us the chance to change topics.Zeke and Tim asked about our trip to Vienna.If they thought that changing the topic was going to lighten the mood, they were wrong.Green and Black stared at me.I took a deep breath.What should I disclose?I looked around the room and saw opportunity.I jumped into the water of uncertainty.
“Yesterday, Matan and I were made aware that Matan’s great-grandfather had started foundations to help those in need.During the meeting, Max gave us an overview of the different foundations.Most of the foundations are dormant and we have an opportunity to reinvigorate them so they are relevant in today’s world.There is much work to be done.Earlier today, Matan and I talked with Herbert and Judy about their interests and now, my friends, I would like to do the same with you.Matan and I have very quickly gotten to know you, love you and trust you.If I may be so bold, I would like to say that Matan and I need your help.”
They were all looking at me with open but questioning expressions.They didn’t know where I was going with the conversation.
“There is a Rebekah Feldsher Foundation which is to help Jewish children access medical care and education.It is tied to the Chief Rabbis of Vienna and Paris.Mrs. Jenner has expressed a deep desire to provide family leadership with this foundation named after her grandmother.Zeke, you have a healthcare background and I would like to ask if you could assist Judy with her work.Judy is here in Paris and you are in the U.S., but I think that will be okay.Judy is still affiliated with the medical school in Virginia and I think through this foundation we can seek a faculty appointment for you at the medical school.”He looked confused, then thoughtful as he processed what I had said, and then jubilant.
“Of course.Oh my gosh, that is so wonderful.”Both Judy and Zeke were smiling at each other.Zeke stood up, crossed the room and hugged Judy.He then sat next to her and held her hand.
“Green, Mr. Jenner is heading up a foundation to help needy Jews migrate to Israel.These people face many challenges.Herbert knows the laws but you know how to move people safely across countries and borders.This can be very dangerous for the emigrants.”
Before I could finish, Green was grinning and nodding his head in agreement.He didn’t need to speak.
“You will need to work with Max and the law firm here in Paris.”
Matan and I want to start a new foundation for LGBT youth in Hampton Roads.We will donate money to get it started.However, we need help because the two of us are in college and don’t have the time.Tim and Black, are you interested in helping gay youth?Tim, you were there for Matan at the bookstore and it changed his life.Think about how we can help other gay youth.”
They both lit up.
“When the Jenner’s acquired the house in Suffolk they made a pledge that the house would always be a safe place for people in need.I am not promising the house, but please think about how it could be used for LGBT youth after Matan and I move to Cambridge.Just don’t kick us out yet.”We all laughed.Tim leaned over and gave Black a kiss.
“Thank you very much for everything you are doing.Your love and support are now larger than Matan, me and you because we are helping people across the world.”I may have been more encompassing than the scope of the foundations but who knew the future?The Creator of the Universe knew the future and who was I to limit his view for these funds.
Matan looked at me.I had sought help from everyone in the room save one person.Zeke gave it away when he got up from his chair, crossed the room to Ayal and put his arm around his shoulder.Ayal looked somewhat lost because everyone realized he was the stray.
“I have a question, Ayal?”
“How much did you know of the content of the meeting in Vienna beforehand?”
Ayal was taken aback.So was Max.Ayal looked me in the eyes.We stared at each other.Everyone in the room was trying to figure out what I was talking about.I decided that silence was my friend and I was saying nothing more until Ayal spoke.
“I knew it all.”
Max was startled.“How did you know it all?Did someone leak information to you?I made sure that I was the only one who knew all of the pieces of the puzzle.”
Ayal smiled.“Monsieur Lambert.You just confirmed what I had to figure out on my own.I couldn’t make sense of everything and I knew information was missing.It was either non-existent or was intentionally being withheld.I worked on the assumption it was being withheld.I then had to ask myself why it was being withheld.Was it being withheld so you could reveal the big surprise or was it being withheld because there were parties that could not be trusted? I thought it might be a little of both.”
Max then smiled and nodded his head.
“I then mapped out all of the information I had and started thinking of what might be missing that would complete the puzzle.I must say that you are very good with puzzles.I spent many sleepless nights pondering what I knew and what I did not know.I then decided to start small and tried to get bits of information.Those efforts proved successful and when I arrived in Vienna and saw who else was in the meeting room, I knew that my assumptions had been correct.The only pieces of information I did not have, were some currency values. I had some but not all.”
Max stood, looked at Ayal, and said, “I applaud you.”
Matan and I smiled at each other.Max walked across the room and shook Ayal’s hand.
“What pieces of what puzzle?We are lost trying to understand what you are talking about.”Tim was scratching his head.
I smiled.“Tim, it doesn’t matter because Matan and I understand.This was going to be a private conversation but let me put this out there tonight to ponder.Ayal, we would like to talk with you about being the executive of our family holdings.That includes personal wealth, which you were made privy to yesterday, and the foundations.It is a huge job and I know it will require staff so you would not be alone.I do not want the job.Herbert and I both know that I am not a financial wizard.You are. When Matan and I finish college and move to Brussels, I would ask that you and Zeke move also.Please think on it and let me know when we get home.”
Ayal smiled from ear to ear.
“When I finally put the puzzle together, I was awed at the breadth and depth of what had to be managed.My brain automatically started constructing what an organization would look like to manage and control that.We can discuss the particulars when we return however I say ‘yes’ tonight.”
“This has really turned into a celebration.Let’s drink champagne.”
Herbert spoke up and said that he and Judy couldn’t afford such frivolous purchases.I laughed and said for them to look in the refrigerator and they would find some bottles.
Herbert looked at me and then at Ayal.“Take away his credit cards.He cannot manage money.”Herbert was laughing as he said this.Perhaps the toothache was totally healed.
We all laughed and cheered after the corks were popped and toasts were made.
On Saturday morning we went to synagogue for the morning service.The Chief Rabbi looked at our string of men sitting together.His eyes kept coming back to Matan and me.After the service, one of his assistants came to ask Matan and I to meet with the Chief Rabbi in his office.We were like ducklings as we all lined up and went to his office.We waited.
When Matan and I walked into his office, he was sitting in his chair which had been turned as he looked out the windows.We sat in silence waiting for him to speak.We were not invited to bring our chairs around to sit beside him.
He started talking while continuing to look out of the window.
“I see that Black is going to be okay.”
Matan spoke and said that was the case.
There was silence.
“Did you know the extent of your wealth before the meeting in Vienna?”
Matan spoke and said it was a surprise to us.“We promise to be good stewards of this gift and will use it wisely to support the Creator of the Universe and all that is good and just in the world.”
There was silence.
“I see that the two of you will be returning to Virginia and are refusing my offer to be on my staff.”
Matan was gawping.He looked at me and didn’t respond.I did.
“No sir.We are returning to continue our studies.Education is so important to all of us.My studies with Rabbi Schulman are important not only to me but to the Creator of the Universe.I have come to understand how I am only here to do his bidding.Without his bidding I would be at Virginia Tech studying how to be a farmer.It would be a great honor to serve on your staff but if I may speak boldly, I will say that I am already of you.I am of this synagogue.I cannot function without thinking how my service to you is service to our Creator.We will now be in Paris on a regular basis and I promise that both Matan and I are at your service with whatever you need done in Virginia.You want an educated staff.We would not be of good service to you if we neglected our studies.We refuse you nothing.We offer you ourselves when we are fully formed.”
We saw his head nod.He stood, turned and that was when we saw his smile.
“Go with my blessings, my men.Yes, you are of me.You are of this synagogue.I need for you to deliver letters for me.”At that point, he handed me a stack of letters addressed in his handwriting.
“I give you a special dispensation to travel today.You need to get to Belgium in the daylight.It is an unsafe world.I need for you to remain safe.If the apartment does not please you, know that I would love to have you in Paris.”
We shook his hand and then he hugged each of us.We stood to leave.
“I need for you to pass along one important piece of information to your Mr. Green.Say to him: ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.’ It is there he will find the people who tried to murder you in Vienna.He will know what it means.”
At that point he returned to his seat and looked out the window.
What will they discover in Brussels? What does that clue mean?