I was deeply touched last week when so many friends who read my message replied by email and text offering to help me with the kids while Mussie was out of town. Well, I'm glad to share that she got back home safely on Monday night, after spending an invigorating weekend at the Chabad women's leadership conference in NY.
Thinking about the tremendous accomplishment of those thousands of women who had gathered last week, and the positive influence they each have leading their families and serving their communities, made me look back at Jewish and Chasidic history to gain an understanding of how this all came about.
This attitude was started by the Rebbe at the very beginning of his leadership, and reminded me of a story my grandmother Susha Alperowitz tells of a personal experience she had with the Rebbe in 1962.
During the late 1950s and early 60s, she served as president of the Neshi Chabad and editor of its magazine. The periodical contained Torah insights, talks from the Rebbe, recent community news and other matters relevant to its readership.
Once when my grandmother had a private meeting with the Rebbe, the discussion turned to the magazine, and the Rebbe suggested that the next issue include a rendition of his recent talk on the Song of Miriam at the Exodus and how it differed from the men's singing.
It was a scholarly talk the Rebbe had given some weeks earlier, during which he explained the difference of these songs, citing Talmudic, Midrashic and Kabbalistic teachings, and the relevant message it had for women as role models for their families spirituality today.
When my grandmother heard the Rebbe's suggestion she immediately thought to herself that there was no way she could possibly prepare such an article herself. Its depth and breadth, citations and complexities, would be beyond her ability to fully comprehend, let alone write up for print. She doubted her ability and credentials to adequately accomplish this task. However, she had an idea. Rabbi Joseph Weinberg, a prominent Chabad scholar and author of a commentary on the Tanya, had just delivered a lecture on the Rebbe's talk, so she figured it would make perfect sense for her to ask him.
"I will ask Rabbi Weinberg to prepare it" my grandmother said to the Rebbe.
My grandmother recalls how the Rebbe replied to her, with words that she can never forget and that have guided her ever since "Why do you need Rabbi Weinberg to do it when you can do it on your own?"
This was 1963.
It's no wonder then that in 2023, the Kinus Hashluchos (Chabad Women's Leadership Conference) is the largest network of female leaders in the world. A group of 6000+ women from different languages, backgrounds, personalities and even ethnicities, including the world's largest cohort of Gen Z Jewish leaders, all "in it together" gathering once a year to share inspiration and strength.
Mussie is In New York
You know the saying "behind every Chabad community leader is... her husband."
Well, I'm home alone this weekend with the kids as Mussie spends time in New York at the annual Chabad women's leadership conference. She is catching up with friends and family from around the world, including from the other 49 states and 107 different countries.
Earlier this morning, Mussie and thousands of her colleagues gathered for their annual "class photo." Just before that another "class photo" was taken, with over 1500 girls who dedicatedly serve world Jewry alongside their parents today, and are the future of Jewish leadership tomorrow.
These group photos of Chabad women and girls are symbolic of what amazes the world most about Chabad. Alongside Chabad’s staggering growth, its tremendous focus on women leadership is a trend setter. This phenomenon is unparalleled in Jewish organizations and unprecedented in history, and dates back to the early days of the Rebbe's leadership in 1951.
Chabad manages to seamlessly balance the modern ideals of women leadership and influence with age-old traditions, meaningfully and positively. As Rivka Slonim said, Chabad philosophy has offered her the ability to look beyond the individual issues to the totality of Judaism.
Every aspect of the the organizational, educational, spiritual and social work of the Chabad Jewish Center of South Dakota, is only possible due to Mussie’s co-directorship.
This is true for the 6000+ Chabad institutions around the world. Be it a school, a shul, a mikveh, a soup kitchen, a preschool or library, and many many more, they are all jointly directed by the Chabad Rabbi and Rebbetzin in complete partnership.
Juggling the duties and responsibilities of Jewish womanhood as guided by our rich heritage and sacred traditions, of being a mother and a leader in the community, is an extremely rewarding task, and one that provides us all with a deeper sense of meaning and spirituality.
In South Dakota, we owe our thanks to Mussie.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.