Four sisters who rarely get the opportunity to see each other are converging
from miles away and different parts of the world this weekend to
recharge—mentally, physically and spiritually—with thousands of their
contemporaries and each other.
They are either already in New York or on their way for the annual
International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchos), where they will be among thousands of happy reunions taking place in Brooklyn during the workshops, tours, Shabbat
programming and lectures over the next few days geared to women emissaries, lay leaders and guests.
The sisters, who are stationed in Scotland, Vietnam, the Netherlands Antilles and the state of Connecticut, will collectively travel thousands of miles to join their mother, Bluma Hecht, co-director of Chabad of Orange in Connecticut; grandmother; sister-in-law; and extended family and friends for the Kinus, which culminates in a gala banquet Sunday night at the newly renovated Pier 12 Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.
This will be the second time that Gitty Weinman, who co-directs Chabad Lubavitch of Edinburgh with her husband, Rabbi Pinny Weinman, has attended the conference since she moved to Scotland eight years ago. “Just to be doing something together with my sisters will be nice,” she says. “It’s been a long time since we have been together.”
She and three of her three sisters—Mushky Laine, Sarale Chanowitz and Chanie Wilhelm, who co-directs Chabad of Milford, Conn., with her husband, Rabbi Schneur Wilhelm—are slated to read the Roll Call, which rounds out the banquet. Having the chance to read off the names of countries around the globe where Chabad emissaries work is very exciting, says Sarale Chanowitz, who with her husband, Rabbi Moishe Chanowitz, co-directs Chabad of S. Maarten/Martin in the Netherlands Antilles.
This is her third Kinus (a four-hour trip) in the seven years she has lived in the Caribbean. “You feel the support, and it gives you the strength to keep going,” she says of being with so many of her contemporaries. “Seeing sisters from around the world, I know it’s going to be a good time.”
Women converge from miles away to recharge—mentally, physically and spiritually—with thousands of their friends, family members and contemporaries from around the world. (Photo: Michal Weiss)
Making the family’s longest trek is Mushky Laine, who co-directs Chabad of Hanoi in Vietnam with her husband, Rabbi Levi Laine. It takes roughly a day to get to New York City from the South Asian nation, but the chance to learn and share time together with family and friends is well worth the trip, as Laine expressly stated when she attended the conference as an official emissary for the first time in 2015.
Many of the women coming in for the conference, which offers programming through Monday, live far from other Chabad centers and often from their extended families as well. For Laine, the nearest Chabad is 1,100 miles away in Ho Chi Minh City.
Emissaries serve in 91 countries: 4,552 couples at 3,500 Chabad institutions, 500 college campuses and 256 CTeen chapters. During their time in
the States, many will visit the Ohel, the resting place of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory; and his father-in-law, the Sixth Rebbe—Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory.
At the banquet, they’ll hear from keynote speaker Esther Wilhelm, who has run a Chabad center in Zhitomir, Ukraine, for 23 years with her husband, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm. Judith Alter Kallman of Greenwich, Conn., will deliver the guest address. A Holocaust survivor and author, she plans to talk about the impact that Chabad has had on her life.
The International Roll Call of women emissaries around the world will be read by sisters Chanie Wilhelm (Connecticut), Gitty Weinman (Scotland), Sarale Chanowitz (Netherlands Antilles) and Mushky Laine (Vietnam).
Touching Every Jewish Soul’
Bluma Hecht, who also serves as principal of Bais Chana Academy High School for Girls in Connecticut, is proud of what her daughters will be representing
as they stand before the cheering crowds on Sunday.
“They’ve chosen to go places where they really see how they’re touching every single neshamah, every single Jewish soul,” she says. “Seeing my girls up there I know will bring tears to my eyes.”
Her daughters homeschool their own children and largely live in out-of-the-way places. “I’m happy that they’re going to have the opportunity to be together for a few days,” she says, adding that it makes them stronger for when they return home. They, like emissaries everywhere, face challenges in their work, she says, but each feels that the Rebbe is by their side. “They really feel and sense the Rebbe with them every step of the way.”
The Hechts have a fifth daughter, Bracha—a “shlucha in the making,” says their mother—who is currently studying in Israel. They also have five sons, and the wife of the eldest one, Dina Hecht, is going to be at the Kinus as well. (Her other daughter-in-law, Shainy, will not be attending this year due to the recent birth of her daughter, Chaya Mushka.)
Conference participants will visit the Ohel in Queens, N.Y., the resting place of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory; and his father-in-law, the Sixth Rebbe—Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory. (Photo: Michal Weiss)
Bluma Hecht and her husband, Rabbi Sheya Hecht, both grew up as children of emissaries. Today, Rabbi Hecht serves as director of Chabad of Greater New Haven and headmaster of Southern Connecticut
Hebrew Academy. His parents, Rabbi Moshe Yitzchok and Rivkah Hecht, were sent by the Sixth Rebbe to New Haven to start what was then New Haven Hebrew Day School. Her parents, Rabbi Sholom Ber and Susha Alperowitz, served as shluchim in Dallas, Texas; New Haven, Conn.; and most recently, in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“I credit my dear parents and my wonderful in-laws for my children wanting to be emissaries,” pronounces Bluma Hecht, “Seeing their self-sacrifice for shlichus, inspired our children to want to continue the Rebbe’s mission and vision of reaching out to every Jew.”
Esther Wilhelm of Chabad of Zhitomir, Ukraine, will serve as keynote speaker at the Sunday-night gala banquet. (Photo: Kinus.com)
Judith Alter Kallman of Greenwich, Conn., will deliver the guest address. A Holocaust survivor and author, she plans to talk about the impact that Chabad has had on her life. (Photo: Kinus.com)