Thousands of Jewish Women Kick Off Annual Emissaries’ Conference

by Karen Schwartz

Adina Landa is getting ready for a very important task. She, her husband, and their two young children are moving to a California town where they’ll seek to organize a Jewish community from scratch.

“We’re starting from the ground up, and we’re excited to meet the Jews that are there, to invite them to our home, and start whatever we can for them,” said the young Chabad-Lubavitch emissary.

This weekend, Landa, co-director of the new Chabad of Novato, is in just the right place to learn more about how to make it all happen. While her husband, Rabbi Menachem Landa, began packing up the house for the big move, she landed in New York for the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries. Bringing together thousands of day school principals, Hebrew school directors, adult educators, counselors, motivational speakers and their supporters from around the globe, the annual event offers several days of workshops, inspirational programs, networking opportunities and celebrations.

When she arrived on Wednesday, Landa was looking forward to the inspiration, encouragement and tips more experienced attendees will be more than happy to offer. Plus, she says, it’s reassuring to know that she’s traveling a well-traversed path.

“You realize that when you meet other people doing the same thing, that you’re not in it alone,” she explains.

On the contrary, thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries have left large, established Jewish communities to build an organized Jewish presence where one isn’t, to strengthen those previously established, or simply to find Jewish residents and travelers in practically every nook and cranny across the globe.

“It’s just exciting to be a part of that,” says Landa, who poured over the list of workshops and classes dealing with such issues as strengthening Jewish relationships, and family and community-building. “I couldn’t choose what to do because I wanted to go to all of them.”

Infectious Inspiration

Chani Bukiet, co-director of Chabad of West Boca Raton in South Florida, has been coming to the conference for years. She credits the affair with providing a much-needed dose of strength that carries her throughout the rest of the year.

“If you could just picture being in a room with thousands of committed, spirited, spiritual, yet down to earth, talented women,” she states. “There’s just so much energy to be had from spending a long weekend with all of them.”

It’s also an opportunity to hear from various professionals who understand their roles as emissaries, she adds, adding that there are always new insights and approaches to be learned. The tools she gains at these events touch lives, and then those people go on and inspire others, she explains.

Shani Katzman, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nebraska, points out that the most important thing about the conference is reconnecting to the teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, who stressed the importance of Jewish women coming together. Since its establishment, the event has always been held around the anniversary of the 1988 passing of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory, on the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Shevat.

The conference is also a welcome chance, Katzman notes, to reunite with her relatives now scattered in France, Sweden and the United States.

“It’s just a wonderful time to be together and rededicate ourselves to the mission that was placed upon us,” she says.

Each attendee, she continues, brings their experiences in different communities and together, they all find ways to go home and continue to brighten the world by bringing goodness, kindness, faith and joy.

“It’s infectious,” states Katzman. “When you meet up with a Chabad emissary in any town, her joy, her optimism, her knowledge is so powerful, that the individuals in our communities can’t help but be impacted.”

Chaya Sufrin, co-director of Chabad of Clarksville, Md., has been an emissary for about a year and a half. She’s glad to be attending, to be reminded that she and the other women are part of a bigger picture.

The conference’s concluding Sunday gala banquet, where everyone fills a ballroom in a giant celebration of Jewish unity, sums it all up, says Sufrin. “It’s really powerful and special, seeing all the emissaries in the same room and hearing the speakers.”

When Sufrin goes home, she’ll be ready to conquer the world, she adds. “When you hear what everyone else is doing, it gives you that extra push to do even more.”

The conference, though, has an added perk for Sufrin, who in addition to her responsibilities as a community organizer, Chabad House administrator and religious counselor, teaches boys kindergarten as part of an online school set up for children of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, many of whom do not have a local Jewish school to attend. In New York, Sufrin will meet many of her students’ parents for the first time.

Esther Greenberg, co-director of the Lubavitch Jewish Center of Alaska, will be joining longtime friends from Russia, Australia, South Africa, Poland and beyond for the one time of year they can actually count on to spend time together. Being together lets women put a face on some of the beautiful stories they’ve heard online or by phone throughout the year, congratulate each other in person for the good things that happened, and offer support for the challenges they face.

“Coming together gives us a chance to connect in more real way,” she offers.

Beyond that, her community back in Alaska waits eagerly for her annual debrief.

“If anyone in the world would come and observe this collection of Jewish leaders, the unity of almost 3,000 women in one room, they’d know that Judaism and the joy of Jewish life is vibrant across the globe,” says Greenberg.

courtesy News