Chayala Mentz had attended the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries every year since she was 8 years old, but was taken aback when there was suddenly no space for her as a grown young woman.
“When I was younger, I had always looked forward to attending the kinus [conference],” said 21-year-old Mentz, who serves as director of youth programming at her parents’ Chabad House in Bel Air, Calif. “But once I finished seminary [post high-school studies], I was so disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to attend.”
As a result, Mentz teamed up with Draizy Raskin from Vermont to create a program at the convention specifically for young unmarried women. Now in its third year, the post-seminary program is geared for women ages 18 and above, many of who work in positions at Chabad centers worldwide or even in New York.
|Organizers take charge of all aspects of the gathering, from food to locations to lodging.
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Its first two years attracted 200 and 300 young women, respectively, and this year is set to be no different. This year’s program, scheduled from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3 in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., coincides with the general conference.
“I love the learning and the lectures. After giving a little back to ourselves, we’re able to return home reinspired and reinvigorated,” said 21-year-old Masha Mazer, who will be attending this year for the third time, and who serves as director of youth programming at Chabad of the East Valley in Arizona. “It’s really nice to have a break for three days and meet girls to exchange ideas with.”
Mentz organized this year’s program with Sarah Elharrar, also from California. Organizers coordinate everything from lecturers and meals to locations, lighting and welcome packages. Each young woman’s admission fee of $150 is hoped to cover the entire cost of the weekend. In addition, attendees are able to take part in the Sunday-night grand banquet of the general conference.
|The convention is also an opportunity for relaxation and entertainment.
Rabbi Shais Taub, who will be giving a lecture there for the third time, stressed the importance of offering such a program—complete with classes, meals and social events—for this group.
“These young women have never had a program of their own, yet they are providing a huge amount of the work at Chabad Houses all over the world, either administratively, or in teaching or anything else,” said Taub, who serves as director of Jewish.tv, the multimedia portal of Chabad.org. “They’re giving so much of themselves, and it was a shame that no one had organized anything for them. This conference fills a huge need for these young ladies.”
For many of the young women, the program is a welcome respite from busy schedules devoted to serving others.
“It’s so nice to feel that you’re part of something that involves learning and growing,” said 20-year-old Batsheva, who teaches in a Crown Heights girls’ high school. “So many people are coming from all over the world for the weekend, so it’s a great opportunity to learn from them and the way they live their lives.”
Sara Esther Crispe, who has taught at the program for the past two years, agreed.
“These young women are very dedicated to their work and don’t usually have the opportunity to reinspire themselves,” said Crispe, director and editor of thejewishwoman.org, a Chabad.org project. “The program is great because they can listen to topics that are relevant to them to get the inspiration they need.”
Though much hard work is involved, for Mentz, the final outcome of the conference is well worth it.
“It’s amazing for me to hear how much the girls gain from the workshops,” she said. “Once a year, we all need to come together to learn and gain and grow. I know that this is something that the Lubavitcher Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory] would be very proud of.”