In her address at the concluding banquet of the 22nd-annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries, Hadassah Lieberman – wife of Connecticut’s junior U.S. senator – urged the thousands of Jewish community leaders in attendance to continue being strong advocates for strengthening their faith.

“The world needs leaders,” she said to those seated in an expansive ballroom at the New York City Hilton hotel, “each in their own unique way.”

Lieberman, who has dedicated much of her life’s work to health issues, assisting non-profit organizations, improving educational standards, and promoting international understanding, relayed short anecdotes highlighting her family interactions with the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, and his emissaries worldwide. Among the tidbits were details of her and Joe Lieberman’s visit with the Rebbe after being elected to the Senate in 1988, and how they each received Shabbat necessities while on the campaign trail during his unsuccessful 2000 vice-presidential bid.

Calling such care packages “one of the greatest gifts on the trails,” Lieberman noted the many times that emissaries delivered candles, wine, challah and other assorted essentials to the family’s hotel as they “hop-scotched around the country to communities large and small.”

During their first weekend of the campaign, she said, they received a “magnificent Shabbat” package in Wisconsin from Rabbi Dovid Greene, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Rochester in neighboring Minnesota. Lieberman asked the rabbi what she could do to repay him.

Greene responded that she should light Shabbat candles with a Jewish staff member who hadn’t grown up practicing Judaism. Lieberman did, sharing the moment with a member of the campaign’s advance team.

“It was very special,” she told the banquet guests. “I thought of Rabbi Greene and how he influenced someone who never practiced Judaism.”

Turning to those in the room, she acknowledged the actions large and small they take on behalf of their home communities.

“I applaud you for all of your efforts,” Lieberman told the women, “and understand how much time you put into … reaching out to the community.”

In addition to the classes and discussions, “never underestimate your hot chicken soup around the table or your warm challahs that you share with the community. You help people.

“And no matter how you reach out and no matter who that is,” she added, “try to just keep strong as you reach out.”

Thousands of women filled a ballroom at the New York City Hilton hotel for the banquet. (Photo: Odelia S.)
Thousands of women filled a ballroom at the New York City Hilton hotel for the banquet. (Photo: Odelia S.)

The Weekend Conference

In addition to the Sunday evening banquet, the emissaries and lay leaders took part in an extended weekend of study and regrouping that included educational workshops, a resource fair, and forums where attendees could share experiences and strengthen one another.

Having traveled to New York from Deerfield Beach, Fla., where she and her husband are the co-directors of the local Chabad House, Leah Goldblatt said that the conference only improves year to year. She raved about the conference’s “five-star service,” which included a shuttle service around the neighborhood and a buffet Shabbat dinner.

Chaya Feigenson, co-director of Chabad of Sugarland, Texas, said she always returns to home encouraged by others’ tales of outreach work in their respective communities.

“It is inspiring,” she said. “In our communities, it sometimes feels like we are in this little place all on our own.”

Sugarland resident Jan Rubenstein, who attended the conference as a lay leader, said she enjoyed the sessions that featured personal stories. While Rachel Lobman, a lay leader from Philadelphia, said she left the conference with a feeling of empowerment.

“The speakers were dynamic and very engaging,” said Lobman.

As a participant in an in-depth study portion of the conference, Lobman said that the most rewarding lecture was an explanation of a dissertation that the Rebbe gave to women attending the 1992 conference.

“It was very moving and touching to hear how important and powerful women are,” said Lobman. “I know that I will be sharing what I learned this weekend with friends, family and community members, so that they too can feel empowered to do more good in the world.”

At the banquet, Lieberman referred to the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, whose passing is commemorated by the conference each year. She noted that the Rebbetzin was also a force for change.

“During the worst, most repressive days in Communist Russia, she stood by her father, [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory,] against all odds, as he fought for Jewish survival, first in Russia … and then in America,” said Lieberman. “And look where you all are, and how strong you are.”