“Woman’s influence is deeper, it helps people access their own selves. I guess I’m more gentle, more nurturing. I take a motherly role. Sometimes I’m also there to tell my husband when to tone it down.“–Sarah Korn
A. My Chabad House is very much intertwined with my personal journey. When I first came to Chabad, I learned that the Rebbe taught us that if all you know is “Alef” that’s what you should teach. When you have a Chabad House and you are in a position to reach hundreds, even thousands of others, you have to strengthen yourself. If I’m not nurturing my own spirituality, I don’t have what to give others. I have to be more in touch, more knowledgeable and more connected with Hashem. So the journey continues.
Q. You and your husband have traveled quite the distance.
A. Yes, I met my husband when I was turning 17. We instantly became best friends.
Q. What’s it like raising your daughters on a college campus—at NYU no less?
A. My girls are a huge part of our Shlichus. They’ve developed a deep relationship with many students and are growing up with the experience of giving.
Q. Aren’t you concerned that they will be exposed to ideas, attitudes that you aren’t comfortable with?
A. Today there’s really no way to keep children sheltered, but at least here my daughters are seeing that this is where people come to when they want meaning, purpose, Judaism. I think that’s the greatest message you can give to your children: look who people are coming to—to us, to Chabad. That is really a powerful lesson for them.
Q. Word is it that the food at Chabad Bowery House is superb. Some say students come to Chabad for free home-cooked meals.
A. They may say they are coming for the food, but they aren’t. They feel something deeper. There are so many places here in the city for them to go eat. So it’s not the food. It’s the way we do it, the way they become connected.
Q. You’ve achieved so much working together with your husband as a team. What’s that like?
A. My husband is a visionary. But we have regular meetings to discuss implementing plans and ideas. We think alike so we are able to really help each other. The balance is good—men are generally direct and quick to get someone to take action, but women’s influence is deeper, it helps people access their own selves. I guess I’m more gentle, more nurturing. I take a motherly role. Sometimes I’m also there to tell my husband when to tone it down.
Q. What’s one of the important messages you try to get across to students?
A. We had this guy who came to our Pesach Seder many years ago, and after coming here a lot, he suddenly made the decision to go to yeshiva. We asked him what changed, and he said that he always felt a pull towards mitzvos, but he thought it was all or nothing so it was nothing. The he heard my husband at that Seder speak about the beauty of the individual mitzvah and how each one stands independently. And suddenly a weight lifted off him.
Q. How much of a dent are you making in preventing intermarriages?
A. That’s often the first thing students who come here decide—even if they don’t take on anything else—marrying Jewish is the first thing they will commit to. We have a lot of students who tell us that they never thought that marrying Jewish would be important, or kids who grew up thinking that they’d never intermarry but then lost that feeling along the way. But it’s not the hit-you-over the head that does it. It’s the environment they find here. They walk in, the get the vibe, and feel proud to be Jewish. Their soul is aroused. It’s not intellectual.
Q. What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your life as a Chabad Shlucha?
A. I love the individual connections that I develop with some of the students. When they come for advice and you feel that you’ve made a difference in their lives and given them a good perspective on the situation. That’s rewarding.