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‘Power of the Jewish Woman’ Gathering at Rutgers

By Rabbi Baruch Goodman

Chabad at Rutgers held its annual Power of the Jewish Woman Chassidic-style gathering on the 30th yahrtzeit date of passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe this past Tuesday night, filling the new, luxurious Chabad Dining Hall with over 200 student participants. This date, the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Shevat, is a day marked by Jews worldwide with public gatherings dedicated to celebrating and gaining inspiration from the life of this amazing woman of our time.

Organized by Rutgers Sophomore, Marli Dinovitzer, Chabad’s JCafe Director, the program featured Rutgers University women students presenting various lessons, values and stories of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka to the assembled crowd, along with giving tzedakah to the needy, singing Chassidic melodies, saying l’chaims, and enjoying a delicious, hot buffet dinner prepared by Chabad’s head chef, Shmuli Schwinger and his assistant Rutgers Junior, Mayan Krispin.

The student speakers relayed incredible stories of Rebbitzin Chaya Mushka’s unparalleled kindness, as well as global leadership initiatives she and her husband put in place immediately after the Holocaust to heal and bolster Jewish life around the world. The students were mesmerized by the stories and identified with the Rebbetzin’s personality and values.

Since the evening was all about the power of the Jewish Woman and the Rebbetzin’s strength and courage, the speakers included key leaders on campus as well, including Chabad’s Student President Nicole Collins, Vice-President Brittany Liebes, and Challah Baking Director Sarah Gutwein.

Nicole Collins, a Rutgers senior, remarked how special it was learning about the life and teachings of the Rebbetzin with both Rabbi Baruch and Rebbetzin Sarah Goodman prior to the event. “I learned so much of how special and precious Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka is to the Jewish people, and that she is definitely someone I want to emulate in my life. Just merely to learn that tens of thousands of young Jewish girls were named after the Rebbetzin is incredibly inspiring.”

Nicole spoke about how when the Rebbetzin was in her early twenties, the Jews in Russia saw the intensification of the Communist war against the Jewish soul and the beginning of her father's heroic struggle keeping Judaism alive for millions of Jewish throughout Russia and beyond. During those dark Soviet nights, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak had his daughter Chaya Mushka at his side, helping with outreach activities and strengthening Jewish communities with social welfare programs, underground Jewish educational systems for young and old, and with sorely needed hope for a better tomorrow.

Very much aware of her wisdom and strength, her father involved her in much of his work. In one instance, young Chaya Mushka was asked to secretly transport food and supplies to Rostov's underground Yeshiva and Jewish community council, in the knowledge that she could be relied upon for her discerning judgment.

Nicole ended off by saying to the assembled crowd, “If anyone here was ever touched and inspired by what we teach and practice here at Chabad, you should know you really owe it to the Rebbetzin because she inspired the Rebbe to become Rebbe, who then built this Chabad House, among thousands of others around the world, and brought vitality and Jewish pride back to the Jewish people.”

Rutgers Junior Brittany Liebes spoke of how Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka worked modestly, but tirelessly on behalf of Jewish women’s education and empowerment as foundations of the Jewish home and nation.

Other Rutgers students who spoke at the gathering were: Jill Park, Rachel Davidovich, Sarah Gutwein, Danielle Shapiro, Marli Dinovitzer, Yareen Trabelsi, and Samantha Jacobs.

Rutgers Sophomore, Rachel Davidovich, spoke of the famous court case over ownership of the Chabad Library, where an heir to the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, claimed inheritance rights and thereby ownership of hundreds of rare and precious Torah books that had been kept and later removed without permission from the main Chabad Library. It was Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, who was the Previous Rebbe’s daughter, who testified for the US Federal Court, that ‘the books belonged to my father, but my father belonged to the Chassidim, so the books belong to the Chassidim.’ The court case was won based on her sole testimony, and the books were returned.

Another inspiring story told over that night by Rabbi Goodman involved a woman who needed to contact the Rebbe at 3:30am with a very urgent health matter. Excusing herself profusely, she asked forgiveness from the Rebbetzin for calling so late. The Rebbetzin interrupted her apologies and said, it’s not a problem at all, it’s an emergency, what are you asking forgiveness for? Here’s the Rebbe! and gave the phone to her husband who gave her advice and the blessing she was seeking. The next day, the Rebbetzin explained to the person, “on the contrary, my husband and I were sent to this world to serve people in need 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By you calling us when you did, you helped us fulfill our mission.”

The take away from this event was clear to all – that we all need to do something special in our own lives to thank Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, by improving our character traits, doing an extra mitzvah and deed of lovingkindness in her memory, and by fulfilling the Rebbetzin’s greatest dream of each of us creating an inspiring Jewish atmosphere in our homes and lives indicative of our excited anticipation for Moshiach’s imminent arrival.



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