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Doing it All, Doing it Well: Women in Leadership


“You are the most potent force in the Jewish world today,” said Diane Abrams, guest speaker at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchos, Sunday evening.

Speaking to an overflow crowd of 1750, Mrs. Abrams, an accomplished lawyer and wife of the former New York State Attorney General Bob Abrams, shared her memories of the many exchanges she had over the years with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and the way he impacted her in her own life. “The Rebbe played a big role in my life,” she said, referring to a personal blessing he had given her, which was fulfilled in the birth of her second daughter, Becky.

Abrams, herself an observant and highly active Jewish woman, spoke with feelings of kinship for this convergence of distinctive, colorful personalities from all parts of the world committed to a singular vision.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of the Lubavitch educational division, opened the conference speaking with great enthusiasm to its theme: “The power of one, the strength of many.” Rabbi Kotlarsky reflected on the Rebbe’s determination to reach every Jew, even those in the most remote places, dispatching all forms of resources to build Jewish life in a place such as Cochamaba, Bolivia, where a mere handful of Jews were living at the time. “We must take strength from this conference and return to our respective posts with the determination to turn the power of one into a collective force for Jewish life,” said Rabbi Kotlarsky.

The occasion of the Conference—now in its 18th year, is the yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Moussia, who passed away in 1988. Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chairman of the Lubavitch educational and social services divisions, who greeted the guests, reflected on the Rebbetzin. Daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Chaya Mushka married her distant cousin in 1928. Intimately familiar with the loneliness of life at the helm, she nevertheless encouraged her husband to assume leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch.

Rabbi Krinsky spoke of the Rebbe’s desire to see Jewish people actively involved in a life of yiddishkeit. “It was the deeds—living a life of yiddishkeit,” he said, visibly moved as he recalled the time of the Rebbetzin’s passing, “that gave comfort to the Rebbe when he mourned the loss of his wife.”

Mrs. Henya Federman inspired the guests with a colorful overview of her life as a new Chabad representative to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Mrs. Bluma Rivkin of New Orleans focused on the support that kicked in from her fellow Shluchos in neighboring states and nationwide, during the Katrina crisis.

A video presentation of the dramatic relief efforts facilitated by Lubavitch Headquarters and its crisis management team, saving lives and bringing comfort and resources to the victims of the New Orleans Jewish community, stole the evening.

In a recurring motif, the Rebbe and Rebbetzin were referred to, metaphorically, as parents of Chabad Chasidim and Shluchim, as realized through the devotion and love of the Rebbe to his Shluchim that continues to sustain them 11 years after the his passing, and conversely, the deep commitment of the Shluchim to the Rebbe’s legacy.

Mrs. Chaya Chitrik, of Istanbul, Turkey, and emcee of the conference, repeated a well known Chasidic anecdote that tells of the second Lubavitcher Rebbe, so steeped in his mystical thoughts he did not hear his baby son crying in a nearby cradle. That was when, said the emcee, R. Schneur Zalman, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe and grandfather of the infant, admonished his son: “Nothing must ever stop you from hearing the cry of child.”

So it came as no surprise when an announcement was made in the banquet hall, that one of the Shluchos was needed in the baby room. The “baby-room” set up adjacent to the banquet hall, enabled hi-energy Shluchos who lead communities, build schools, run educational and social programs, to keep their babies within earshot. Built into the entire five-day Kinus, the service provided one-to-one child care by Lubavitch teenage girls, freeing the women up to take their own nurture in at the Kinus while remaining close by.

Guests at the Conference who were new to Chabad, had the chance to see the next generation of Shluchim in the making: a beautiful choir presentation by the daughters of Shluchim from around the world—among them, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Holland and France, who introduced themselves in their native languages–to the amused delight of the guests.

In her speech, Diane Abrams talked about how she meets up with Chabad on all her travels around the world. “Under the inspiration of Rebbe you are in every town, under very difficult circumstances. You go out often where there are no resources, but you have the will and the determination—you are building Jewish homes and planting the seeds for Jewish education. It is nothing short of miraculous what Chabad has accomplished.”

by B. Olidort


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