I used to bake vanilla cakes with frosting in my toaster oven, it would smell so damned good up and down the halls that no one would try and haggle with me on the price. Three bucks and when you were finished you had to give me back the aluminum cake pan so I could reuse it. Like most yeshiva dorms, there was a not so strict policy against cooking or any other form of activity which would cause the eventual fire they always told us would come if we used extension cords, heaters and toaster ovens. I never understood this, until I realized that it was just one precaution to deal with because the smoke detectors never actually worked- why have another thing to worry about when the fire inspectors came. In fact I remember during the fire inspections, some guy would be one step ahead of the inspector in order to place batteries in the smoke detectors- so we shouldn’t be shut down.
I was a big part of my yeshiva dorm economy. Everyone was trying to make a quick buck and like most people I was in it for the fame and money. Unfortunately I let it go to my head and was eventually kicked out of the dorm for selling Maxim magazines for one dollar per magazine (I had a free subscription at home- no my family was not yeshivish) and the kid snitched on me after they found his stash in the freezer.
Besides for vanilla cake and soft core porn sales, I was also a broker for other people. I would sell other peoples clothing much of the time. Clothing sales in a yeshiva dorm are huge, kind of like cigarettes and soap on a rope sales in prison. Everyone had clothing and due to the fact that it was very cold in Rochester, you really needed to have a lot of clothing. So I would sell a shirt marked up of course, and keep the profit- it was good, very good and sometimes I got free clothing.
I had other businesses in yeshiva that played off of the average yeshiva guys laziness. In order to reach a store where one could buy any sort of food, one needed to walk all the way down the block, a full 5-7 minute walk depending on wind speed and snow depth. So I would make the trek in 3 feet of snow, buy cans of soda, ice cream bars, candy bars, or anything I could buy in bulk and sell individually. Apparently there was some sort of decree backed up by halacha that no one could compete with the vending machine owner in the yeshiva- but I was a firm believer in the invisible hand of the free market. I provided a service by offering people door to door service so they shouldn’t have to walk all the way down 3 flights of stairs to the basement.
There were other yeshiva businesses, in towners and beis medrish guys would drive people places for money. Other people would charge you if you needed an alibi because you were at the movies- a big no no in yeshiva. In fact going to the movies actually made you daring and cool- that’s how pathetic we were.
In the summer months, people would set up grills and barbeques were a common site out in the back yard which was basically a junk yard with a basketball hoop in the middle. Everyone had a grill and everyone cooked up meat so we could survive another day without subjecting ourselves to the cold blooded torture known as yeshiva food. It wasn’t that bad some people may say, but that was only because you got used to it, kind of like prison food.
Then there was a short lived business called the ghetto yeshiva guy deli. It was called Lackeys Deli and it was basically a deli set up during dinner. You got a roll with a couple pieces of empire deli meat and some dole lettuce salad for a couple bucks, it was ghetto but very enterprising. Who can forget Eli Barashi and his cheesecake, oh man was it good, so good in fact that it was the only aspect of the yeshiva economy that sold its wares outside of the yeshiva to kollel wives and families.
I was a cheap bastard in high school, in fact I was so cheap that I would walk into rooms and ask for change. It’s a good business you know and loads of fun. In fact people would say, “hey hesh we have a bunch of coins under the bed- if you want them” and of course I did like any self respecting 16 year old yeshiva guy would.
Later when I graduated, well actually I never did graduate, but when I embarked to a life of 7 credit college semesters and serial road tripping addictions- I would venture back and offer rides to places like Detroit and Toronto. The Toronto kids were all rich so I would pack 4-5 of them in my car and charge them 75 bucks a head- it was sweet.
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