Rabbi Zalman Serebryanski, a senior chassid from Russia and dean of the Lubavitch Rabbinical College in Melbourne, Australia, once brought a girl to Rabbi Chaim Gutnick. "Please, help this girl convert," he asked.

Rabbi Gutnick listened to the girl's story. She lived in Balaclava, and from her youth had felt a strong attraction to Judaism. Whenever she heard stories of the Holocaust, she was deeply touched. She had been reading and studying about Judaism for a long time, and now wanted to convert.

Rabbi Gutnick was moved by her sincerity. Nevertheless, he did not want to perform the conversion. The girl was still living at home with her non-Jewish parents. Would she be able to practice Judaism in her parents' home? Would her interest continue as she matured into adulthood? Since he could not answer these questions, he decided to let time take its course. If the girl was still interested when she was older, she could convert then.

Rabbi Gutnick's refusal plunged the girl into deep depression, to the extent that she had to be confined to a hospital. The elder Reb Zalman, stirred by the depth of her feelings, continued to visit her from time to time.

After several weeks, he called Rabbi Gutnick, telling him of the girl's condition and asking him whether perhaps he would change his mind because of the strength of her feelings.

Rabbi Gutnick answered that the reasons which had dissuaded him from performing the conversion were still valid. Nevertheless, he promised to write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe describing the situation. If the Rebbe advised him to facilitate her conversion, he would happily comply.

Reb Zalman told the girl that the Rebbe was being consulted, and her condition improved immediately.

Rabbi Gutnick did not receive an immediate reply to his letter. But at a later date, at the end of a reply to another issue, the Rebbe added: "What's happening with the Jewish girl from Balaclava?"

Rabbi Gutnick was surprised. The girl and Reb Zalman had both made it clear that her family was Anglican!

He and Reb Zalman went to confront the girl's mother. At first, she continued to insist that she was Anglican, but as the sincerity of the two rabbis impressed her, she broke down and told her story. She had been raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in England. As a young girl, she had rebelled against her parents and abandoned Jewish life entirely, marrying a gentile and moving to Australia. She had not given Judaism a thought since. She loved her daughter, however, and would not oppose her if she wished to live a Jewish life.

Once the girl's Jewishness was established, Rabbis Serebryanski and Gutnick helped her feel at home in Melbourne's Lubavitch community. She continued to make progress in her Jewish commitment, and today is a teacher in a Lubavitch school.

But Rabbi Gutnick still had a question: How did the Rebbe know she was Jewish? At his next yechidut (audience with the Rebbe) he mustered the chutzpah to ask.

The Rebbe replied that, at Reb Zalman's urging, the girl had also written him a letter. "Such a letter," the Rebbe declared, "could only have been written by a Jewish girl."