The Rebbe: Machon Chana Alumnae Reunion
to 400 alumnae from around the world attended a reunion in Crown Heights
during the week preceding Gimmel Tammuz.
impressive assemblage of alumnae from around the world attended a Machon
Chana reunion in Crown Heights during the week preceding Gimmel Tammuz.
The number of participating alumna was especially gratifying considering
that the reunion sessions took place mainly on weekdays, during the week
between school and camp.
from Argentina, Russia, and Eretz Yisroel joined women from all around
the US during this exciting learning-packed week.
participants related that this was the first convention that answered
their needs directly as it
discussed how to handle various situations occurring in their
lives. The theme of the reunion, “Being the Best…& Beyond,”
focused on three main areas: avoda atzmis, relationships,
reunion began on Friday night with a bang. It was exciting to meet old
acquaintances and catch up on their lives, to share experiences with new
ones, and to take pride in each other’s growth and accomplishments.
Malka Werde, who took on the position of Hillel “Rabbi”-director in
Rockland County, began with recounting the story of the Rebbe’s first
Pesach seider in the dorm. She had received matzos that
Erev Pesach from the Rebbe for the
Chabad House, but missed the plane, leaving Rabbi Noson Gurary without
the Rebbe’s matza for the sedarim. She was upset at
first, but felt better when the Rebbe visited the Machon Chana seider
and blessed the girls that they be married by next year. She became
engaged shortly thereafter. She told how living as a Lubavitcher and a
mother is a transcending experience, lifting her and all women out of
the ordinary gashmiyusdike life to a life whose purpose is to
bring G-d and G-dliness into the world, through the ko’ach and
encouragement of the Rebbe. Keren Leeds from Pittsburgh spoke and
pointed out parallels in the parsha to our personal avoda.
women described the warmth they feel coming back home to the dorm and of
their appreciation for Gita Ganzburg, the dorm mother, who continues to
act as mother to them. To many, the first stop when they arrive in Crown
Heights is Machon Chana. The evening ended with niggunim and Maariv.
afternoon brought a grand Shalosh Seudos in Lubavitcher Yeshiva.
Shulamis Nadler catered all of the food for the reunion, and Shoshana
Reiber coordinated the food as well the fundraising. Laya Klien, Edis
Fuss, Chaya Aidel Freeman and Chanie Rothman helped coordinate the
Majeski, dean of the school, was introduced by alumna Naomi Aarons. She
told how Rabbi Majeski was so devoted to the girls that when she missed
a second appointment in his office to straighten out a certain problem,
he actually came to her house! Rabbi Majeski spoke about the meaning of
a reunion and the importance of constantly strengthening our hiskashrus.
Labkowski, director of Machon Chana, told how the Rebbe picked the date
and theme of the reunion through the Igros. She explained that
the kavana of this reunion is to better integrate the gashmiyusdike
and the ruchniyusdike aspects in everyone’s life. Yocheved
Adelman, shlucha in Amherst, Massachusetts, spoke about hiskashrus,
and Menucha Lavner created a mood of harmony and melody with her rousing
workshops that afternoon were: “Bitachon and Simcha,” led by Chanie
Rothman, Chana Baila Schwartz and Eliza Kaplan; “Moshiach: Answers to
Common Questions,” led by Rabbi S. Majeski; “Staying Focused and
Inspired,” led by Keren Leeds; and “What Hiskashrus Really Means,”
with Sara Labkowski and
Yocheved Adelman. Hearing the Igros stories and stories of
mesiras nefesh of many of the women strengthened the convictions
of the participants and created a mood of inner strength and optimism.
topic focused on relationships. Workshops for married women were on shalom
bayis, led by Chana Epstein, and taharas ha’mishpacha, led
by Sterna Krinsky. For single women there was a full day focused on shidduchim.
Women with children of marriageable age attended workshops on preparing
the children for shidduchim, the parents’ role, and
psychological aspects and prejudices, given by Esther Blau, Yocheved
Baitelman, and Edis Fuss. There was a session with shadchanim led
by Gitty Stolik.
Chassidus shiur with Rabbi Majeski, was followed by a “Building
Self-Confidence”workshop with Molly Resnick. She spoke powerfully,
describing the importance of deriving strength and confidence from the
fact that we are living the life Hashem taught us through the Torah.
She, as a woman who has met powerful people the world over through her
previous work, emphasized how fortunate we are to have the Rebbe as our
leader. She explained the importance of attaching oneself to a mashpia,
a living example of how to handle situations that arise and how to raise
children as the Torah teaches. She stated resolutely that women can and
must feel proud raising Chassidishe children without getting
caught up in secular society’s push towards careerism.
were also workshops addressing topics such as caring for aging parents,
given by Dorit Rogers, dealing with disappointment in our children, and
disciplining with love, led by Bassie Pinson. There were workshops
specific for parents with special needs children and at risk children
given by Henna White, Chana Leah Duato, and Rabbi Homnick.
three-day chinuch conference began on Monday with focus on the
Chassidic home and raising a Bas Chabad. Gitty Stolik
and Sara Labkowski spoke on the Chassidic home, and Chavi Altien,
principal of Bais Rivka, Bracha Chein, Miriam Gurary and Rishi Majeski
spoke on the Bas Chabad.
workshops focused on specific problems in chinuch such as “The Tzniyus
Dilemma - How to turn cool kids into warm Chassidim,” with Leah Gurary
and “Chinuch for the younger set” with Devora Leah Shalinsky and
Chaya Sheina Labkowski. Medical issues were discussed, one for expectant
and nursing mothers and the other for women over age forty, organized by
Sara Chana Silverstein.
farbrengen with the Rebbitzens,
was led by Sara Katzman and Riva Teleshevsky. There ere workshops
on topics in balabatishkeit, given by Shulamis Nadler, Riva Minkowicz,
Chana Kurinky, Esther Dukesz, Devorah Benjamin, Ruth Devora Wollen, and
focused on “Raising a Tamim.” Rabbi Kesselman, the maspia of the
Yeshiva in Johansburg, was a powerful speaker.
He defined what is the essence of a Tamim - a person who has mesiras
nefesh for the public good in terms of initiating and developing
Jewish activities and institutions in areas of need, disregarding their
own comforts and needs for the public’s needs. He explained that this
was the difference between the mesiras nefesh of the Tamim in
Russia and the mesiras nefesh of Jews throughout history.
Jewish history, Jews have had mesiras nefesh for their own mitzva
observance whenever the situation called for it. But in Russia, the
Tamim actually risked their lives to provide Jewish education and
leadership to others, which is a situation that is above what the Torah
calls for in terms of mesiras nefesh. He also explained how to
raise a Tamim in our times. Rabbi Levin, Rebbe in Oholei Menachem, and
Rabbi Akiva Wagner, rosh yeshiva in Toronto, discussed the
challenges in raising a Tamim today and answered specific questions on
how parents could help the yeshivos to reach this goal.
culmination of the program was an elegant banquet on Gimmel Tammuz, in
conjunction with Nshei Chabad and held in Oholei Menachem. The speakers
emphasized the Rebbe’s ko’ach that has transformed the world
in the past 50 years by creating a cadre of empowered and dedicated
women who are in the lead as examples of Chassidishe women and in
developing Yiddishkeit in their neighborhoods. Doreen Kolt, an alumna
and mother of three, told how the Rebbe changed her whole family. Gitty
Barnett, a daughter, represented children of baalos teshuva around
the world thanking the Rebbe. There was not a dry eye in the room when
Adelman was the keynote speaker. She told of the strengths inherent in
women that the Rebbe brought out, and that are transferred to their
children and mushpaos. Rabbi Shloma Majeski’s topic was
“Defining our Mission,” which he connected to Gimmel Tammuz. Sara
Labkowski thanked the Rebbe for enriching the lives of Lubavitcher women
with limud ha’Chassidus, which was once mainly in the domain of
men. She explained how the growth of Machon Chana has contributed to the
spiritual growth of Crown Heights and areas throughout the world, as the
graduates of the school married and went to live in other regions. She
told of the special love the Rebbe had for the mosad and for the
students he called his daughters.
program ended with a video showing Machon Chana women, throughout the 28
women who attended the program felt inspired, enriched and empowered.
They returned home with a handle on skills and with advice on how to
better their lives as mothers, wives, and shluchos. The women
acknowledged the truthfulness of the sessions and how helpful they were
in terms of focus, attitude and skill.
to Sara Labkowski, director of Machon Chana, for her dedication,
leadership, and forthrightness throughout the years.
wishes to hear tapes of these spectacular sessions can call Machon Chana
for information as to how to obtain them. The telephone number is (718)