For the thousands of Jewish community leaders attending the 22nd annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries, the time in New York is something of a spiritual recharging, a chance to reconnect with friends from around the world and derive energy and inspiration for the multitude of responsibilities they shoulder back home.

They serve as school principals, teachers, counselors, writers, camp directors, editors, program managers, youth directors and fundraisers – in many cases, at the same time – in addition to their critical roles as wives and mothers. When they depart for the conference, say their husbands and community members, it’s impossible not to notice.

But no one, it seems, would have it any other way.

Every year, “you can start to feel burned out, and you need to get inspired,” said Chani Bialo, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Student Center serving college campuses in and around Portland, Ore. At the conference, “you feel that you’re not alone, and then it’s really worth it to come back home with new energy.”

Bialo’s husband, who like his fellow emissaries around the world, regularly attends the International Conference for Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries each fall, will be holding down the fort, so to speak, while she’s away. That includes preparing the food for their Chabad House’s weekly student meals and taking care of the couple’s three daughters.

“I trust that he can do a good job,” said Bialo. “He’ll have to make the Shabbat meals for the students, but I know that he’ll manage.”

During the fall, with their husbands away at their conference, women emissaries routinely host women-only events. This weekend, Rabbi Yossi Brackman, director of Chabad serving the University of Chicago and Hyde Park, will be doing the exact opposite.

With Baila Brackman and two of the couple’s daughters away in New York, Yossi Brackman, planned to host an “all-guys” luncheon Saturday afternoon for Jewish students at the university.

Role Reversal

Chaya Shapiro, co-director of the Jewish Community Center of Flagstaff, Ariz., said that she was confident all would be well while she was away. This week’s conference is her fourth, she emphasized.

“My husband knows how important the conference is to me and he’s happy to hold down the fort while I’m gone,” said Shapiro, who arranged babysitting help and prepared food for the family in advance. “Sometimes in a place like where we live, you can forget the big picture, and the conference gives me the strength to continue for the entire year. I would never miss this opportunity to spend time with other women who are in the same boat as me.”

Rabbi Levi Krinsky, whose wife Shternie has attended the conference for almost two decades, is somewhat of a veteran of weeklong shake-up.

“She prepares for the trip ahead of time, especially anything related to cooking, but everyone notices that the atmosphere is lacking her special touch,” said Krinsky, director of Lubavitch of New Hampshire. “The community appreciates that we don’t cancel activities just because she’s gone, but they definitely notice a significant difference when she’s not there.”

Many of their children are grown, but Levi Krinsky remembers what is what like years ago.

“It’s a change of pace,” he said. “Most of our children are girls, so they go with their mother to the conference, but I remember the years when they were younger and at home with me, and I had to figure out how to get them dressed and make their pony tails.

“It’s all part of that fun experience of your wife being away,” he added. “It really makes everyone appreciate her many roles in the Chabad House.”