Beloved educator Hindy Scheiman, an unassuming leader in the Chicago and Des Plaines, Ill., area Jewish communities, passed away after a long illness at the age of 54. A Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, she was co-director of Lubavitch Chabad of Niles, Ill.

“She was an extremely soft-spoken woman,” says Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois. “Her life was dedicated to education and the community for over 30 years, since her arrival in Chicago.”

An open home and heart

Scheiman was born in 1958 in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Azriel and Shifra Schanowitz. Her father was involved in Kehot, the publishing arm of Chabad-Lubavitch. “Her childhood home,” according to her husband, Rabbi Binyomin Scheiman, “was always open and filled with guests from all backgrounds.”

He says his wife and her siblings took that to heart, and kept their homes open as well, always welcoming people in. “She would come over to me,” recalls her husband, who together with her established Lubavitch Chabad of Niles in 1987, “and point to someone who looked like he or she did not receive an invitation for the Shabbat meal and tell me to invite them.”

Acquaintances say she ran a home with seemingly no lock on the door. “There is a hospital close by,” explains her brother, Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz, co-director of North Suburban Lubavitch Chabad in Highland Park, Ill., “and her home was open to anybody who needed to stay there overnight, for a few hours or just for a meal.”

The concept of complete faith in G-d epitomized the life of this exceptional teacher and mother.
The concept of complete faith in G-d epitomized the life of this exceptional teacher and mother.

Scheiman would also cook for those in the hospital over a holiday or during Shabbat, and have the families stay with her so they could visit their loved ones.

As the director of Jewish Prisoners' Assistance Foundation and the chaplain of many state prisons, Rabbi Scheiman stayed in touch with many ex-inmates and would often bring them home for meals and counseling sessions. “I am grateful,” he says, “that she made that possible for so many people—not many others would let them into their home, and they were always welcome into ours.”

“From an early age,” adds Rabbi Schanowitz, “she always took responsibility and took charge of difficult situations. She carried others on her shoulders with dedication, placing everyone before her, carrying the burden of others.”

After Scheiman’s passing, family and friends learned of acts of heroism on her part, such as once walking eight miles with a woman who needed to go to the mikvah on Shabbat or the time she picked up stranded passengers at Chicago's O’Hare International Airport in the wee hours of the morning.

“She did everything for others,” says Rabbi Moscowitz, “as if it was normal, as if it was nothing special or out of the ordinary.”

Going the Extra Mile

Rabbi Meir Hecht, director of the Jewish Learning Institute of Chicago, a student of Scheiman’s whose children also became her students over the last two years, tells of how she was dedicated to teaching the young how to read Hebrew. “She had tremendous patience to teach them how to read like no one else was able to,” he says.

Lakey Silber, director of the Seymour J. Abrams Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School's preschool division, where Scheiman taught, says that she gave individualized instruction based on a child’s particular needs: “The kids were connected to her because she was very embracing and very nurturing.”

She says that her care went beyond the students, to the parents. “She always had a nice word for the parents; she was sensitive to everyone’s needs.”

When a mother from the school who lived in a remote neighborhood gave birth, Scheiman sent the family meals; after all, her philosophy was that new mothers need sustenance along with their babies.

In the growing Chabad Chicago community, she also set an example for many who were just learning the basic tenets of Judaism. “There is not a family in the community,” says Rabbi Moscowitz, “who has not been affected by her. Everyone looked up to her as a role model.”

Scheiman exemplified what the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—said about serving G‑d “with faith and genuine joy.” Friends and family say she fulfilled this ideal whole-heartedly, and that this was personified by the fact that very few people realized the extent of her illness.

“No one knew she was sick,” says Rabbi Hecht. “She was with her students, as always, doing everything happily, and no one ever saw any signs of being ill when she was in school, until one day she just stopped coming.”

It’s a difficult time for those touched by Scheiman’s kindnesses. Silber says the community is uplifted by the attitude of the Scheiman family—“everyone is in awe of the faith and positive approach that they have had throughout this ordeal, and that they continue to have.”

She says the concept of complete faith in G‑d epitomized the life of this exceptional teacher and mother, and that Scheiman educated her children to live their lives in that manner, “and this is having a great effect on the entire community.”

In addition to her parents and husband, Scheiman is survived by her children: Rabbi Schneur Scheiman, co-director of Camp Gan Israel of Chicago; Faigy Lison of Montreal, Canada; Henny Brandman, co-director of Chabad of Buckhurst Hill, United Kingdom; Chaim Scheiman and Mendel Scheiman of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Mushka Scheiman; Shterni Scheiman; and Leibel Scheiman.