My husband's first impression was of two children carrying a child. But when they came up the stairs, their faces dispelled any illusion of childishness. Married for several years, parents of six year old twins, their youngest child snuggled close within his father's parka, they'd come to speak with my husband about a job.

Jake had just graduated from Princeton University, my husband's alma mater, with degrees in both art and computer science. Although his first love was art history, he now sought employment of any kind. Miriam had been a biology student, staying on at university as her advisor's lab and research assistant, but the university no longer had funds to compensate graduate students' extra-curricular work. The recession had hit them hard; and now they sat at our dining room table hoping for the opportunity for employment.

Both hailed from traditional Jewish families; each had sought to escape what they perceived as restrictive conditions living in a Jewish community. And in a far away place where no Jews lived, they encountered each other. First, the competitive snorkeling, and then long discussions of what they had run from and where they wanted to be. And, feeling each the other's soul dream, recognition was born. Soulmates indeed.

At first, intent on leaving behind what they'd come from... and then a slowly dawning awakening of inner reality. Shabbat, they confessed in surprise to each other, was where they wanted to be in the future. A home that shone of holiness; a mezuzah on the front door, and Shabbat candles every week. The sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah...a small hut for kiddush on Sukkot...a Passover seder...they couldn't deny any longer that this was, indeed, the only vision for the future. And, almost in disbelief, each was encouraged by the other's mirrored thoughts.

Returning home...introductions to parents and family...marriage under a chupah...and then the birth of their twins. They were happy. Completely and fully satisfied. Life was blessed. At three, the traditional haircut for their son, and first Shabbat candlestick for their daughter—what a celebration that had been! My husband's tallit bag was resting on the table—she touched it, and talked about her feeling of maternal Jewish continuity as she watched her little son, enveloped in his father's tallit, carried proudly into the local yeshiva. Although not yet ready for school, his first taste of the sweetness of Torah study, and the first tuition check cut.

But they couldn't afford that any longer. Precious as Jewish education is, they'd just enrolled their children in the local public school. "He needs oxygen and food and water; he needs a Jewish education. It's not dispensable. It's his life, his future." The cost was just too great, and in the economic crunch, sacrifices had to be made. They'd moved from their own condominium to his parents' home; they'd given up her car and had sold a much beloved piece of art; for the first time in their married life, they'd not renewed their opera subscriptions. And now, they'd sadly decided that private yeshiva education for their children would have to wait for some time in the future. For now the children would receive secular education in public school, and their Torah education at home. Already they'd perused the local Judaica library for books and tapes to teach their children Judaism.

I turned to look at my husband, and his eyes were on the little children. Then, softly, he faced the parents...

"Parents would sacrifice anything for their children," he said. "What would a parent not do for a child's well-being? What wouldn't a parent give up for a child's future?" He touched the little boy's fist, and then turned to Jake: "He needs oxygen and food and water; he needs a Jewish education. It's not dispensable, it's not optional. It's his life, his future."

Miriam stood up suddenly, as if to flee. Jake called her back, and brought her back to the chair beside him.

"We can't do it," he said. And now he seemed distant, seemed to recede into some emotional armor. "I know you think it's important, but we can't do it.

"And," he continued, "don't even mention scholarships—I will not take a handout, we will earn our way, and pay for what we can afford." And with that, thanking my husband and me, he stood to leave.

But she sat, made no move. "Wait a minute," she said.

"My father left me a college fund," she said to my husband. "He wasn't a wealthy man, but willed to me a fund meant for my education through graduate school. Would it be unethical to use that fund for my children's education instead of mine?" she asked.

Jake stood frozen, but the warmth of her eyes now on him seemed to penetrate to some deep place. "You'd give that up?" he asked her. "Your security for enabling your dream? The untouchable fund that would allow you a graduate degree?"

And now she stood, gathering the blankets around her baby, wrapping him in her love, and then pressing his little body against his father's chest. Zipping up his father's jacket around him. "Look around you," she said. "This is what our children need, a Jewish home to live in, and a Jewish environment to learn in."

Pulling on her coat and gloves, a long look around the room lined with holy books....and they were gone.