The Two Ladies Meet


Sarah Leah and Dinah

Summary: The meeting of two great ladies

Date: June 16, 1883

The Two Ladies Meet

Tietz's Meats

Note: Hebrew and Yiddish terms will be translated in [brackets] after the word. If the concept is more extensive than a mere translation would require, I will put an asterisk (*) by the word, and either a brief explanation or a link to an explanation at the end of the log.


Simply and plainly furnished, this room boasts little of material goods, a divan, a stuffed horsehide chair and a Franklin Stove for heat. A small table by the chair and a narrow bookcase complete the furnishings, not even a portrait on the plain, whitewashed walls.

Players: Sarah_Leah Dinah
Exits: [B] Bedroom [D] Tietz's Meats
[K] Kitchen [S] Study Room


This five feet, five inch tall young woman is average of appearance in nearly every way, save the extra weight on her plump form. Lightly tanned skin serves as a background for an ovular face with a forehead that is slightly too large to be proportional. A long nose with a small crook in the bridge leads to a pair of lips that seem to be chewed upon rather often. Eyes the color of maple syrup look out at the world, within them a sharpness and intensity normally found in those who are far older.
A cream-colored velvet snood covers every strand of her hair, hanging gently down until it brushes the base of her covered neck. The neckline of her butter yellow blouse nearly touches her jawline, while the shoulders are gently puffed out. The cuffs are as primly buttoned as the front of the shirt, which is tucked into the waist of a sky blue walking skirt to gently hint at the somewhat meaty feminine figure beneath. This heavy cotton outfit is completed by a pair of ivory heeled boots that lace up to several inches above the ankle.

Dinah Maimun's pale olive skin bears a light tan, and her dark brown eyes offer a thoughtful but slightly impersonal gaze beneath the shade of strong, dark brows. Diminutive build notwithstanding, this young woman has an air of quiet, modest confidence. Dinah's smiles are not a wide flashing of teeth, but a very slight tilt of the corners of her lips, perhaps a little extra something in the eyes. She is observant but not overly watchful, and her body language suggests that she is a person who gives to others, and expects in return, a respect that is communicated through personal space, and precludes impromptu personal contact. Though Dinah's English bears the mark of careful education, her accent hints of foreign vowels and too-careful consonants.
Dinah wears a lady's suit appropriate for walking about town, a high-necked white blouse with crisp officer's collar beneath a trim jacket of grey. The skirt has not the fullness required by a hard manual laborer, nor the sleeknees in front and huge bustle in back demanded by the woman of leisure. Topping it all off is a trim scarf of a darker grey, tied in such a way as to conceal all of Dinah's hair. She is, in fact, dressed like a well-off woman from a large city Back East. Here on the frontier she may be a touch overdressed, but she's new. She'll learn.

A knock comes to the door, loud enough to be heard but not enough to indicate an angry or imperious person at the door. If there's a window, visible will be head and shoulders of a girl or woman no bigger than a sneeze, carrying a box that may be a bit much for her.

Having heard the bell ring downstairs, Sarah Leah was aware of the arrival of potential customers. However, the knock on the door of the upstairs personal area has her jumping a bit. Could it be? With a large grin curving her lips, the meaty woman opens the door just a tad to peek out. Excitement radiates from her as she enlarges the opening and dips her head. "Rebbetzin [(Yiddish) Mrs. Rabbi] Maimun, I presume?" Her eyes linger on the covered hair to indicate the clue she used to surmise this. "It is a great honor to see you. Would you like something to drink? And eat? What about the rabbi?" She cannot help but babble.

Dinah's face is one not given to great movement in expression, but nevertheless, expression is there, easily readable, one of great pleasure. "G'veret [Madam] Tietz?" she asks, her Hebrew accented towards Mizrachi [Middle Eastern, North African] pronunciation. "The honor is far greater for me! I would very much appreciate some water — and I've brought you something to drink, too, perhaps on Shabbat [Jewish Sabbath]." Her fingers tap the edges of her box, which is marked with the name of a prominent kosher vintner. It is large enough for about four goodly-sized bottles. "Rabbi Shushan has just gone in to visit with Mr. Tietz, as excited as a schoolboy to finally find himself in the company of our people again."

Small eyebrows lift softly in pleasant surprise. Sarah Leah ushers the other woman in and closes the door. "Thank you very much, Rebbetzin. Please, put the lovely gift down on the table and make yourself at home. I will be back shortly with something to nosh on.

Dinah sets down the box of wine bottles and, after making sure her clothing hasn't been too badly wrinkled by carrying it, sits and smoothes out the skirt. She hasn't batted a lash at the Yiddish, apparently accustomed to it thanks to the ever-changing flavor of New York City's Jewish neighborhoods, the stetlment of America. As she waits, she looks around the room and relaxes a little bit. It's clean, it's well kept, a source of pride for a young balebustah*. And there was a mezuzah* on the door. "Baruch Hashem [bless/thank God]," she notes softly to herself.

There is not much in the small house, but everything is certainly kept with pride. Sarah Leah is gone and back in a matter of moments, face still warm and inviting. She sets down a tray of water, juice and knishes on the table within easy reach of the refined woman. "I trust your trip was well, Rebbetzin?"

Dinah nods as she picks up a water glass, makes shehakol [which-the-all, slang for the blessing over most kinds of food], and sips, following with another quick baruch Hashem. "Goodness, that is so refreshing — Yes, thank you, the trip was an easy one, and please call me Dinah. There are not so many of us here in galut [exile, that is, not living in Israel] that we can afford not to be good friends! Much easier to come from the rav's [rabbi's, that is, her husband's] parents' home in Denver to Silver Creek than it was to come from New York to Denver last year. Too, Rabbi Shushan found us lodgings much more quickly than I would have imagined he could do. I thought we might be obliged to buy a miner's tent and make camp outside town, but there was a hotel so close to the train." She apparently has a typical city person's view of small pioneer towns, wherein nothing exists but a train station, possibly a completely unsuitable saloon, and an irrelevant church.

Not having been in Silver Creek much longer herself, Sarah Leah only nods in complete agreement, with one small change. "Unfortunately, there are many of us in galus [exile (Ashkenazi* pronunciation)]. Only most are not here. Oh, there is another of the Tribe here. Mrs. Rosencranz, a wonderfully opinionated elderly woman who lost her husband, of blessed memory. In fact, his first yarzheit [death anniversary (Yiddish)] is coming up, I believe." She lifts a glass of juice, makes shehakol, then has a sip herself. "If it is not prying, may I ask what brought you to this tiny town?"

Dinah echoes quickly alav hashalom at mention of Mr. Rosencranz before answering with a very light twinkle in the eye, "You did. You, your husband, and Mrs. Rosencranz, that is. My father, Rav Ya'akov Maimun, has a colleague in Boston, a wonderful scholar, who knows a man who knows your family in Michigan. My husband grew up in Denver, where his parents live now, and when he came back to the east to study with my father, my father mentioned the connection. Ilan has dreams of placing at least one rabbi in every major town, or town he feels can become major thanks to the trains, so that no Jewish family who comes to settle or visit should be without a halachic [Jewish legal] authority to consult, a place to lay their heads. When he heard that Mr. Rosencranz had died and that there were only three of you left here, he felt strongly that we should come. Perhaps create, over time, a minyan [quorum of ten adult Jewish men]." She touches her stomach, which is flat, a signal any woman can recognize: the hope for a child, or ten.

"Yes, that would be wonderful," Sarah Leah replies to the entire speech. With a smaller, shy smile, she adds, "May we each merit to have a minyan… and perhaps a few daughters as well. Have you had any time to tour the town?"

"Amein, y'hi ratzon [amen, may it be his (God's) will]." Dinah's head shakes. She explains, reaching delicately for a knish, "We came in by the afternoon train yesterday. Since then all I've done is look through our things and set up our rooms. I did see a surprising number of businesses and homes on the way to the hotel, and to your lovely home. I really didn't expect to see so much…" she doesn't /say/ civilization, "…commerce. It really is a whole town, isn't it?"

Sarah Leah takes a moment to contemplate this. "Yes… I suppose it is. However, I must warn you that there are still wild elements. There are enough here who are not the more refined goyim [non-Jews] of the east. Also, some have less than warm feelings toward our people." Sobering a bit, the newlywed looks into her drink and sips again.

Some little shadow passes across Dinah's expression as she admits, "I have been worried about that. Not often in my own neighborhood, but whenever I ventured outside it as a child, I heard a good many insults. Ilan doubtless hears more than I do, because he is so dark, and because of his peyot* [sidecurls]. I hope this place will be kinder than I expect. Refinement might be too much to ask for, but I have to trust in the goodness of people's hearts."

"The words for those of dark skin are more often spoken than those for our people, if only because not enough here know what a Yid [Jew (Yiddish)] is to mock him. Although they know we are very different, that is for certain. If not for Aharon's meat business, we might have been put into a shtetl*. But Hashem knows everything and will help us, of that I am positive." Sarah Leah lifts a knish as well, nibbling a bit… then a bit more. "The more we contribute to the town, the more they will see that we are good. But we must take care not to encourage assimilation, chas v'shalom [God forbid (Yiddish)].

Dinah agrees quietly but fervently, "Cholileh [God forbid]," having apparently picked up some Yiddish among non-Mizrachot in her native city. "But then, we are meant to be a ner lagoyim [light to the nations], and if we don't make ourselves available to those whose souls yearn for words of Torah [first five books of the Hebrew Bible], how else will they know where to look? Surely there are many righteous gentiles here. We /are/ supposed to interact. How else did avoteinu [our fathers, our ancestors] get the sealskins for the Mishkan bamidbar [Tabernacle in the desert], if not for keeping good relationships with our seafaring neighbors? But, enough philosophy. I am a practical person; Ilan is the scholar and dreamer. What /I/ want to know is… what am I eating, and what is its recipe?" There isn't a giggle, but with that face, it's clearly not far away. "This is delicious."

"Shabbos [Jewish Sabbath (Yiddish)] dinners are especially good for that," Sarah Leah replies to the ner hagoyim comment. With no little pride in her voice, she explains the food. "It is a knish. I learned the recipe from my great aunt in New York City. Essentially, it is fried dough stuffed with potato. Also, if you like, mushrooms. She even once made some that had a delicious spinach mixture. They are usually pareve, but if you make the spinach mixture dairy, it is mamish [very (Yiddish)] creamy!" If her body shape did not make it obvious, her words clearly show that she gets excited about food.

Dinah repeats the word, then tilts her head. "It's a little like… no, it isn't… Oh! It's like kibbeh*, only with potato and dough instead of meat and nut and dough. When I have a place to cook, I'll make it for you. With spinach and cheese, it would be a little like manicotti. Mrs. Terraccina makes that for our beit knesset [house of gathering, synagogue] at home, for Shavuot* . Mrs. Tietz, if the rest of your cooking is this delicious, and I bet it is, I would like to learn a great deal from you." She looks at the other knishes, but doesn't take one just yet, endeavoring not to be gluttonous when they've just met. "I hope we'll live nearby, so that we'll have such an opportunity. I did notice the house just next door didn't have a buggy. Is it unoccupied, do you know, or merely the owner wasn't home?"

"Manicotti?" Sarah Leah repeats the word very slowly. "Oh, that sounds Italian. Some of their dishes are delicious." You know, the ones not made with pig dunked in lard sauce. "I would be thrilled to try some kibbeh. Until you are fully settled in, my kitchen is open to you. I warn you, it is rather rare to receive milcheg [dairy, milky (Yiddish)]… dairy here. Every now and again, we can pay a local farmer to milk his cow. I know how to make some very soft cheeses, but none of the hard ones." She glances toward the wall, as though looking at the property next door. "I believe it is vacant. All of the buildings here are set up to be shops downstairs and living areas upstairs. Does your husband have a trade, Rebbetzin?"

Dinah's lips press together, as if they could possibly stop her from blurting out, "Bashert [destiny (Yiddish)]!" Her hands clap and clasp as if that would stop her from actually standing up and giving with a little jig right there in the parlor. "Bashert, bashert! Mrs. Tietz, my husband's family are dairymen. They make cheeses! We can ask them to ship cheeses here for us — I wish we'd known earlier that you needed them, they could have been sending you cheeses all along!" Never mind the trade, that will come up later. But… "And my husband can, if need be, act as mashgiach* for any dairyman in this area who is willing to have him come and assist on a farm now and again, in exchange for milk and cream. Bashert!"

A light breeze could bowl Sarah Leah over as her face alights once more. "Bashert indeed!" She actually does laugh softly, looking as though she might hug the woman, given a chance. "We could trade fleish [meat (Yiddish)] for milcheg and corresponding recipes. Baruch Hashem!"

Dinah, Mizrachi to the bone, can't not dance and sing, "Hodu laShem, ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo*!" she carols out, laughing, heedless of the fact that Aharon Tietz may hear her from downstairs, or anyone wandering past outside the window* . Her hands clap, and she squeals like a little kid on birthday morning. "Hinei, mah tov u-mah nayim, shevet achim gam yachad*! All we need now is a mikvah* and homes filled with children!"

Ashkenazi to the core, Sarah Leah instinctively looks toward the door when the other woman begins to sing. Although the tunes are familiar and catchy, she manages to keep her mouth closed with severe pressing of the lips. Lips that cannot help but smile. "Amen! Oh, speaking of taharas hamishpachah* … there is a nearby lake for such necessities."

Dinah quiets down once she notices Sarah Leah's quick glance towards the door, but it requires her to put a hand over her mouth for a moment until she calms down. "Oops. I'm not used to being so close to men during the day. I'll be careful. But what a mechaia [enlivening, something that grants a feeling of added life or restoration] this will be for us both, chalav [milk] and basar [meat] all we require. And… well, a lake isn't such a bad thing. Imoteinu [our mothers] did it. As I understand it, your strong ancestresses were so committed to the mitzvah [sacred obligation] that they had to chip ice from lakes and rivers, and if they did it, then," deep breath for the woman of hot desert blood, "I can certainly do it, too."

With a slight purse of her lips, Sarah Leah points out, "You know, winter here is long and harsh. I have never before had to cut through ice to dip. We were married just as the warm weather began." Although she is as resolute as her new friend, there is much trepidation at the thought of such an act. "Im yirtzeh Hashem [if God wills it], our community will grow enough that we can afford a mikvah. In truth…" The young woman glances downward. "I wonder if we could not build one beneath the house under the supervision of the Rabbi?"

Dinah's left eyebrow lifts slowly as the possibility is suggested, evaluated, and judged doable. It takes several seconds, but then the shorter woman leans forward and places a hand on the table. "Sarah Leah Cozen Tietz… you are an eishet chayil*. Do you know, I believe it might indeed be possible, if your basement looks on the inside the way it looks from the outside. And if not here, then at the one next door, if b'ezrat Hashem [with God's help] we manage to buy it. Perhaps even the two could be joined by a tunnel, so that neither of us have to walk outside, or expose our errand to other eyes."

Sarah Leah blushes at the compliment. "Thank you, Rebbetzin. Joined? Hm, it is an interesting notion. Even if we do such a thing, I would still wish to arrange the mitzvah ahead of time, as our husbands may also need to use the mayim kedoshim [holy waters, purifying waters]. How embarrassing it would be to knock on the door of the room, only for your husband to be there at that time! Or vice versa." The very thought turns her red back to her ears.

Dinah's face, just for contrast, turns white. "Oh, that would never do. But of course, the ancient sages thought of this. We immerse at night; men go in the mornings. A convert or a kallah [bride] can go during the afternoon, if there are any, and thus there will be no problem. I think we should do it! I'll mention that house and shop to Ilan, and your excellent idea for a mikvah, and we'll just see what we can do about making it happen. What a wonderful idea, to have it right in one's basement, with no need to go walking out at night. Lovely! And no meeting anyone else except the mikvah lady*… Oh. Well, that would be us, wouldn't it?"

Sarah_Leah laughs and nods. "Of course, how could I forget that men go during the day? Yes, I suppose we would be the mikvah attendants for one another. As well as any other woman who may need it, of course." She gnaws her lower lip, trying to bite back a giggle. "How confused the masons will be when our husbands go to them with this request. Especially because they will not divulge its purpose."

Dinah waves her hand. "They'll come up with something. A food cellar, indoor well, a simple bath so that the families need not risk themselves in the river. Or…" one finger taps against her chin. "Maybe my husband's family in Denver know a Jewish mason who will not need an explanation. What do you think of that? As soon as we've bought a house, I'll send word to his mother that there is no mikvah, and I have a suspicion that the arrangements will be made before I can tell her that we want to buy cheese!"

"Baruch Hashem! I am very grateful to have met you, Rebbetzin. Please, do tell me your Hebrew name." Sarah Leah is filled with youthful exhuberance. All of this talking makes her quite thirsty. So much so that she lets her derech eretz slip a tad as she takes a rather long swallow of juice.

"Dinah bat Ya'akov u'Lei'ah [Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah]," replies the rabbanit with a smile, "and I feel very fortunate as well. Now I'm not just content to be here, but excited as well. What a beautiful way to begin a new life in a new home! In New York City, I could do many things, but I could never have the privilege to help build a Jewish community almost from scratch."

Almost automatically, Sarah Leah replies, "In the merit of this mitzvah, may you be zechus [meritorious, worthy] to perform many more." Suddenly, she cocks her head and is silent for a moment. "I believe our husbands have concluded their meeting. Will you two stay for dinner?" She is almost pleading for the opportunity to serve guests.

As eager as Sarah Leah may be to serve to someone who can appreciate the kashrut of her home, Dinah must be even more eager to accept. "I am so grateful that you offered," she confesses. "I packed enough food for the train ride and a few more days, but I will admit to being heartily sick of eating nothing but dried fruits and nuts. But would you allow me to assist you in the kitchen, so that you aren't doing all of the work — and so that we can spend more time talking?" For, as every Jewess knows, the best conversations happen over a cutting board or a sinkful of dishes. "I suspect that, meeting or no meeting, both of them are hoping we'll take our time getting to know one another, so that they can do the same."

"That would be wonderful! Come, I will show you the kitchen." Every balebustah's* true pride and joy. Sarah Leah lifts the tray and happily heads toward the door that seems to be permanently swinging open and closed.

Hebrew and Yiddish vocabulary

mezuzah - a scroll affixed to the right-hand doorposts and doorways (facing inward) of Jewish homes,

Ashkenazi - Jews of northern and eastern Europe,

Mizrachi - Jews of the Middle East, Asia, and most parts of Africa,

peyot - sidecurls,

shtetl -

kibbeh - a fried meat croquette,

Shavuot - the Biblical Festival of Weeks,

mashgiach - person who supervises a kosher establishment to see that it remains kosher,

Hodu laShem…l'olam chasdo - "Give thanks to God, for he is good, for his mercy endures to eternity." A quote from a Psalm.

…heedless of…outside the window. - A Jewish man is not permitted to listen to a woman singing (other than his mother, sister, wife, or daughter), lest he become aroused by a woman other than his wife. Part of the concept of tzniut (modesty).

Hinei mah tov…gam yachad - "How good it is, and how pleasant, that brothers should settle/sit down together as one."

mikvah - ritual bath,

taharas hamishpachah - family purity laws,

eishet chayil - woman of valor,

mikvah lady - a woman who supervises a ritual bath to keep other women from drowning and ensure that she completely and correctly immerses in the water

balebustah - female master of the house, a position denoting skill, intelligence, and earned authority,


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