Mrs. Rochel Yehudis Charytan, longtime Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Winnipeg, Canada, passed away on the first day of Passover after a lengthy illness. She was 65 years old.

She was born Rochel Yehudis Gottlieb in Montreal in 1954, named for her two grandmothers who both perished in Auschwitz. Her parents, Shraga and Sarah Gottlieb, Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Czechoslovakia, instilled in their three children a strong sense of Judaism, setting living examples of how to live with faith. Her father was an accomplished Torah scholar who would use every spare moment learning Torah and encouraged many people to make Torah study a priority. Her mother worked full-time to help support the family, yet would take her children to visit the elderly and sick, bringing them homemade food and encouragement.

Her parents spared no expense to ensure that their children received a proper Jewish education. She studied at the Bais Yaakov of Montreal, where some of her teachers and classmates exposed her to the teachings of Chabad and the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.


In 1975, soon after marrying, she and her husband, Rabbi Yitzchok Charytan, a graduate of Tomchei Temimim Montreal, became Chabad emissaries to Winnipeg, where they served alongside Rabbi Avrohom and Brocha Altein.

Reached Out to Countless Women

Rochel Yehudis Charytan
Rochel Yehudis Charytan

Before they departed for their new home on the frozen Canadian Prairies, the couple met privately with the Rebbe. During the course of their audience, Rebbe handed her $3 and told her she should be involved in promoting the three mitzvot of Jewish women: Shabbat candles-lighting, observance of family purity and challah (kosher). She was very active in managing the Winnipeg mikvah for the rest of our life. She reached out to countless women with her non-judgemental, accepting attitude, guiding many in their times of pain and doubt with a listening ear and kind encouragement.

Living far from her family and the comforts that Montreal’s large Jewish community provided, she would constantly refer her children to the Rebbe’s personal example as a guidepost for how they should think about and care for others.

After her oldest son was diagnosed with severe autism, she decided with her husband that they would do whatever it takes to raise him within a Jewish environment. This involved keeping him in their care at home while simultaneously managing her other duties with an upbeat, composed demeanor.

Decades later, a young woman who had come to know Mrs. Charytan when she came to serve as a staff member of Camp Gan Israel in Winnipeg recalled learning from her to “always greet your husband with a smile, no matter what type of day you had.” While it seems simple, it was so meaningful, given the difficulties she observed in having to manage an autistic toddler.

For years, she opened her home every Shabbat, hosting prayer services and a subsequent kiddush. While her husband would address the men, she taught and encouraged the women. She kept in touch with many community members via weekly emails, reminding them about Shabbat candle-lighting and other pertinent information. She baked countless challahs, honey cakes and other delicacies to enhance the Shabbat and holiday celebrations of her beloved community members.

At a family wedding with her husband, Rabbi Yitzchok Charytan, children and grandchildren.
At a family wedding with her husband, Rabbi Yitzchok Charytan, children and grandchildren.

Discrete and non-judgemental, she served as a confidant to many, who knew that she would respect them and treasure their friendship, no matter what.

In recent years, she suffered from illness, yet she never complained and continued to be there for others to the extent that many in her community were unaware of her situation. Her refrain while going through treatments was Baruch Hashem (“Thank G‑d, all is well”), Hodu laHashem ki tov, ki le-olom chasdo (“Praise G‑d for He is good, and His kindness is forever”).

Even when she was very ill, she continued arranging the mikvah schedule. She held herself strong throughout and encouraged everyone with her positive attitude.

“She accepted all that Hashem gave her with ahavah, ‘love,’ ” attests Brocha Altein. “She saw the good in everything and turned around even the most difficult into sweetness.”

In addition to her husband, she is survived by their children: Mendy Charytan (Winnipeg); Rabbi Yossi Charytan (Montreal); Rabbi Zalman Charytan (Kennesaw, Ga.); Rabbi Naftoli Charytan (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Rabbi Sholom Ber Charytan (Los Angeles); Leah Blecher (The Woodlands, Texas); Chaya Mushka Cunin (Pomona, N.Y.); Sossia Kramer (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Rabbi Mattis Charytan (Brooklyn, N.Y.); and many grandchildren.

She is also survived by siblings Yitzchok Dov Gottlieb (Jerusalem) and Chana Blima Friedman (Toronto).