(lubavitch.com/LNS) On the screen, when they appear at all, Chasidic young women are portrayed as cloistered girls raised for a life in the kitchen. In reality, young women in their late teens and early twenties from Chabad Lubavitch backgrounds shoulder significant leadership roles assisting Chabad representatives all around the world.
Chani Erdvin is just 19, but she has already directed winter camp for 20 children with special needs and she is helping coordinate Friendship Walk, a 200-person walk-a-thon to raise funds for Chabad of Agoura Hills’ programs for children with special needs.
“The hours are long, and the work is hard, but when you show up to the phenomenal event you planned, and the kids walk out smiling, I know I am doing right,” Erdvin said.
She is part of a legion of young women who bring programs to life at Chabad centers. Raised on the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, they feel a responsibility to reach and teach every Jew. They have been taught that they have an equal share in spreading that message, that they are capable and valued for their insights. These young women are eager to share their knowledge in communities far and near. In the coming weeks, the high season for the matches between capable young women and the Chabad centers that need them will be in full swing.
The numbers of positions have grown so much that Chabad’s Shluchim office opened a website to facilitate matches. Started twelve years ago with phone interviews and lists of candidates available by fax, the placement website helped 100 communities find young women leaders last year alone.
Still more ads for positions proliferate on Chabad Lubavitch community websites. One European suburb promised a “beautifully decorated private condominium (with a washer and a dryer),” plane tickets, car and a stipend for the right candidates who could run the Bat Mitzvah Club, Hebrew School, Shabbat children’s services, teen club, provide one on one support and visit the housebound elderly.
In other words, when parents rave about the wonderful experience their children have at Chabad, they are talking about the work done by young women like Erdvin.
“They make a major impression on everyone,” said Ruben, an active member of Chabad of Agoura Hills. “They are not just working here. They are part of the community.” Families grow so close to them that many community members to book special trips in order to join the wedding celebration of the young women who taught and inspired their children.
For young women like Chani Rubashkin of Brooklyn, NY, taking on responsibility at a Chabad center provides on the job training that she’ll tap into whatever the future brings. As youth club director for Chabad of the Five Towns, NY, she’s learned “how to keep organized, the importance of publicity,” and the all important “dealing with people.”
Chabad’s educational system is preparing young women for their early entry into the world of Chabad work. Associated Beth Rivkah Schools’ second year of seminary in New York City offers a Shlichus course that prepares young women with lessons in teaching adult education, running a successful preschool, organizing community programs, and more. Though the course is aimed at training lifelong representatives, many who have taken the course go on to spend a year working in the field “as a sort of apprenticeship,” said course leader Chana Piekarski.
In Tzfat, Israel, Chabad’s women’s seminary in requires students on degree tracks to spend time working at Chabad centers in the former Soviet Union before earning their diploma.
Hiring young women for these jobs is no turnkey operation. For most, the positions are the first jobs that don’t involve bunk competition, and the first time they are living independently without dorm counselors. Chabad representatives act as job coaches, guidance counselors, and sometime surrogate parents.
“The girls are a critical, wonderful, a real positive part of what’s goes on,” said Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman of Chabad Intown, Atlanta, GA “They are going to reach out and touch a community. It requires dedication and self-sacrifice.”
With these qualities, Chabad’s youngest leaders have shown just how much they can carry on their narrow shoulders.