The life of Chasiah Kudan was anything but simple. The Chabad shluchah, or emissary, suffered from cystic fibrosis and received a double lung transplant in 2001. Yet the mother of six, who along with her husband, Rabbi Dovid Kudan, ran the Chabad Ocean Synagogue in Hollywood, Fla., never let things get her down.
Mrs. Kudan passed away on Jan. 22, at the age of 47, just one day after her son, Yossi Kudan, was married in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. She had been ill for some time and had recurring medical issues.
“She made every single one of her kids honestly think they were her favorite,” said her eldest son, Leibel Kudan.
This sentiment was echoed by her daughter, Miri Rubin. “As I grew older, she became a close friend, as well as a mother. I used to talk to her every day. I felt comfortable talking to her about everything and felt that she saw me as a friend, too.”
Mrs. Kudan will be best remembered for her spirited attitude and strong will. “She was a strong person—the word strong is what everyone keeps saying, in terms of a strong sense of right and wrong, and later in life, she had to have strength to manage her family, her illness and her shlichus,” said her older brother, Gedaliah Robinson. The two were a little more than a year apart in age.
Rubin noted that she was very much a leader, both in the community and at home. “Even under the worst conditions, she was always in charge. She once came out of hospital on the day before Pesach, and she delegated all the preparations from her bed. She knew where everything in the kitchen was, she knew if the pantry was stocked, she made the shopping lists.”
A Mentor and Sounding Board
Born Chasiah Robinson in East Northport on Long Island, N.Y., her parents were ba’alei teshuva—becoming more religiously observant—when Chasiah and Gedaliah were young. One of five children, Chasiah was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was just 11 years old.
“For her, a cold was more serious, a cough or flu, she didn’t heal as fast,” said Robinson. “But if you met her, you could never tell. I remember one summer she was a head counselor [at camp], and that’s a demanding and active job.”
She only slowed down when “she was physically forced to—when her illness affected her activity level.”
Having cystic fibrosis didn’t keep her from leading an active and meaningful life, serving as an emissary for Chabad.
“We were on the receiving end of shluchim over the years,” her brother said. “Obviously, the influence of Chabad some 40-odd years ago put us where we are today, and I know that for Dovid and her, [shlichus] was their goal from day one.”
Before dating her husband, Mrs. Kudan had made a conscious decision that she wanted to go on shlichus, said Rubin. “She wanted her life to be meaningful, even if doing the Rebbe’s work would not always be easy. She and my father both wanted to do what the Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory] wanted them to do. Their attitude was simple: They trusted the Rebbe, and the Rebbe wanted people to go on shlichus.”
As newlyweds, Dovid and Chasiah Kudan went to the Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania, where they worked with college students. Shortly afterwards, the couple relocated to South Broward County in Florida, where they have worked for almost 30 years. In 1990, Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, executive director of Chabad of South Broward, sent the Kudans to open the Chabad Ocean Synagogue to serve the beach communities of Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Mrs. Kudan worked for a while as teacher both in a preschool and a Hebrew school. As her eldest son recalls, she also spent quite a lot of time helping others, especially young women who were having problems and needed someone to talk to.
Chasiah Kudan with her husband, Rabbi Dovid Kudan, and their children.
“They were looking for a mentor, someone who would understand them, and she was good at relating to them and talking to them,” Leibel Kudan said, adding that his mother’s counseling of others gave her strength when she herself wasn’t well.
Rubin added that many of these people shared her strong will and sense of independence, but with her, they developed deep relationships. She was also a very forthright individual—respected because she told people what she thought was right, rather than what they wanted to hear.
Writing It All Down
Mrs. Kudan’s medical condition started to deteriorate when she was in her 30s. She was placed on a transplant list for new lungs and though it took several months, a match was eventually found.
She chronicled her lung transplant and her recovery in an online journal that she started on the Jewish holiday of Purim, a particularly joyful holiday, in 2001. In her writings, she talked about her family and friends, and how much she appreciated those who were helping her. Through it all, she tried to maintain an upbeat attitude, always with family first on her mind.
As she wrote in one of her earliest entries, before leaving her Florida home to go to North Carolina where the transplant would take place: “I had visions of leaving the freezer stocked with cakes and cookies for the kids staying behind and my brother Yossi, of course. Hasn’t happened. Maybe I can squeeze in a few quick batches of something for them. I can’t believe I’ll be leaving my Kitchen-Aid … behind.”
According to Rubin, Mrs. Kudan’s freezer became known as “the magic freezer.”
Everyone knew that a little digging would turn up some of her baked goods; there was always something there. “She was really great in the kitchen,” said Rubin, “and she taught me all kinds of things. She was quite the expert, and whenever I needed a recipe, she was the first person I would call. And even when she could no longer do it herself, she ran the kitchen from her bed. We made the food, but she was the brains behind it.”
Mrs. Kudan was very much a realist, but never a pessimist. She was strong and spirited, with a sharp sense of humor, and a fighter throughout. Her passing leaves a hole in the hearts of many.
Chasiah Kudan is survived by her husband, Rabbi Dovid Kudan; her children, Rabbi Leibel Kudan, Miri Rubin, Yossi Kudan, Mendy Kudan, Sholom Ber Kudan and Chana Kudan; and two grandchildren.
She is also survived by her parents, Tevyeand Chaya Robinson; and her siblings, Gedaliah Robinson, Yossi Robinson, Aryeh Robinson and Bayla Helman.
The levaya (funeral) will take place on Thursday, Jan. 23, in Brooklyn, N.Y. It will begin at Shomrei Hadas Chapels in Borough Park at 10 a.m. and continue past 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights at 10:45 a.m.