Sylvia Rothblum came to New York from Munich last week “not knowing what to expect,” she admits. Vice President of Warner Brothers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, Rothblum attends Torah classes with Mrs. Chanie Diskind, Chabad-Lubavitch representative in Munich, and convinced two of her friends to travel to New York with her to the Guest Program of the Annual International Shluchos Conference that concluded this week.
The Guest Program, which runs concurrently to the women’s convention but keeps to its own schedule entirely, was born of a desire to “give people the bigger picture,” says Molly Resnick, coordinator of the Guest program together with Mrs. Rivka Kotlarsky and a committee of local women. “Women involved with Chabad in their respective cities get a much clearer perspective on the work of Chabad after participating in a weekend like this,” she observes. Since the Chabad representative of their city is usually preoccupied with her own convention, the Guest Program was created to “show the guests the scope and depth of Chabad’s work worldwide.”
The Guest Program gives visitors a glimpse into the “inside story” behind the phenomenon of Chabad-Lubavitch women in leadership positions around the globe. “It also provides them with a fascinating introduction—or for returning visitors, an in-depth look—at Jewish and Chasidic thought,” she says. The weekend’s schedule is packed tight with lectures and workshops on a wide range of topics, from Feminism to Maimonides and everything in between, presented by accomplished lecturers in their respective disciplines.
“I think the combination of so many elements is what makes the program so special,” Sylvia Rothblum says. “You have brilliant speakers, a very well-run program, a really diverse and interesting group of women, all of which make for an incredibly inspiring weekend.”
Rachel Alfandari, Rothblum’s friend from Munich, says she was especially inspired by the power of the women she met over the weekend. “You come with your prejudices about Orthodox women being second class and all that,” she says, “and it’s just amazing to meet women who are accomplishing so much, who are so talented and productive. I have a whole new perspective.”
She also points to the sophistication of the program’s intellectual content. “That amazed me,” she says. “There was nothing superficial here.”
Rachel Chitrik, a Crown Heights resident, hosted one of the sessions in her home. “I think the women loved every minute,” she says. “There was such a broad and interesting range of people who attended, and the program was really tailored to their interests.”
The Guest Program joined the main conference for the Gala Banquet on Sunday night.
“There was so much joy in that room,” Alfandari says. “The energy of the Shluchos and their children is an incredible inspiration for us.”
Sylvia Rothblum sums it up: “When you live in Munich and meet just one Chabad family, you have an idea what Chabad is about but you don’t exactly know where it’s coming from. Seeing 1500 women on their home turf gives you a far wider perspective on all that’s being done across the world. It’s very moving and very inspiring,” she says.
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