The Singing Principal

Every year before Purim, the school hosts a Purim chagigah. It’s supposed to last the whole morning, meaning we miss all our “Hebrew” (limudei kodesh) classes, and get back to class in time for “English” (secular studies). In practice, we usually got back to class for the third period of afternoon classes.

When I was in twelfth grade, the chagigah ended a bit earlier than usual. It was just past lunchtime, which meant we were barely halfway through the afternoon’s first period. The twelfth grade that year was housed in classrooms on the Mezzanine, where there were no principal’s offices, no eyes from the watchtower. They did have cameras whose feed went to the secretary’s office on the second and third floors, but no actual person of authority was on our floor.

When we got to the Mezzanine after the chagigah ended, no one wanted to go back to class. We wound up sitting on the floor in the corridor, backs against the lockers, forming two long lines. And we started a kumzitz. (I shouldn’t say “we” – I don’t think I actually joined, I just watched from the classroom.)

Teachers were of course not very pleased with this. They wanted us to come to class. But what could they do in the face (looking down at the heads) of a hundred or so girls, sitting with their arms around each other and singing soulful songs?

They tried a few times, but their voices were not really heard, and definitely not listened to.

The singing went on, and faltered only a moment when Rebetzin Kalmanowitz, the principal who everyone loved and no one wanted to disappoint, appeared in the doorway. Determined to sit their ground, the girls kept singing.

Rebetzin Kalmanowitz pulled over a chair from the side of the corridor and set it down at the head of the two lines of girls. They kept singing, but warily, keeping an eye on Rebetzin Kalmanowitz.

She joined in the singing.

Everyone was surprised, and the singing faltered again for a moment, but then went on, stronger and full of joy. She sang one song, two songs, and then in the lull between songs, she said, “Nu, girls, I think it’s time for class?”

And they all went to class.


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