They were as different as the places they came from: Istanbul, Turkey to Naperville, Illinois. But they were family, coming together to welcome their long-lost cousin in a Brooklyn, N.Y., ballroom.

For Ella Vorovich, who met about 30 newly-discovered family members Thursday night, it was a dream come true. She walked across the dais at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries to share her story as part of a talk appropriately entitled “Reencounter, Reaffirm and Reunite.”

It all began a month earlier in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, where Vorovich’s great uncle had been observing the anniversary of his father’s passing at the local Chabad House. When the rabbi asked for his Hebrew name so that he could be called up to the Torah, he answered with the distinctly Chasidic name of Dovber Mendel.

The rabbi quizzed the man about the story behind his name, and the two discovered that the mother’s maiden name was Duchman, the name of a well-known Lubavitch family with cousins serving as emissaries across the globe.

The uncle called his niece, who was born in Lithuania and now calls Toronto home, serving as an emissary in the city’s Richmond Hill neighborhood and as editor of the Russian edition of Exodus Magazine, a publication of the Jewish Russian Community Center of Toronto. Vorovich, who made her first contact with a Chabad House when she lived in Hartford, Conn., was unaware that she had many living relatives at all, let alone that her ancestry included Lubavitch roots.

“Maybe you are related to someone,” Vorovich’s uncle told her.

Vorovich began researching her family tree and learned that her great-grandmother’s brothers, who were thought to have died during World War II, had survived and immigrated to the United States. There, they fathered families who today run Chabad Houses in Turkey, Morocco, China, Florida, Tennessee, Connecticut and New York.

Ella Vorovich
Ella Vorovich
Standing behind of a podium at the Oholei Torah ballroom in Brooklyn Heights, Vorovich posed a question to the some 2,500 women who had gathered for their 22nd annual conference.

“Can all my cousins please stand up so I can get to know you?” she asked.

One by one, the women stood to greet their newfound relative.

Vorovich spent the weekend with her extended family, catching up on lost time and exchanging stories about her ancestors. She’s planning for the next reunion to include her great-uncle and her mother from Lithuania.

“It was unbelievable to think that, after 60 years, she discovered a whole side of the family she thought was gone,” said Nechama Duchman, co-director of Chabad of Roosevelt Island in New York.

Duchman’s husband’s great-grandfather was the brother of Vorovitch’s great-grandmother.

“It blew my mind,” she continued, “even though I’m only an ‘in-law.’

“This really provides perspective into reaching out to every Jew,” added Duchman. “We are all really one family.”