NEW YORK, February 11, 1999 — For the more than 1,000 participants in the International Lubavitch Women Emissaries Conference held here this past weekend (February 4 through 9) at the Lubavitch World Headquarters, the proceedings were packed throughout with inspiration, insight and intense personal exchanges.

Yet there were moments that stood out as well — moments that each "Shluchah," as the women emissaries are called, would long remember as they returned to their postings in Jewish communities large and small throughout the world. Some of these came during the Conference's gala banquet and the roll call of countries where “Shluchot,” or emissaries, are stationed.

"Argentina!" called Banquet Chairlady Goldie Plotkin, a Shluchah from Markham, Ontario. "Belarus!” “Congo [formerly Zaire]!” “The People’s Republic of China!” “Thailand!” “Uruguay!" she persisted, urging each representative to rise as the name of the country or state she represented was called. As each one rose to cheers and applause, she put a human face on the concept of Lubavitch's global presence.

The annual conference, this year celebrating its 11th anniversary, is designed to give the Shluchot from communities near and far a chance to meet and study many aspects of Jewish scholarship — both for their own knowledge and in order to enhance their ability to transmit the teachings to their communities; share information about activities they might replicate in their own work; learn various professional development skills; and gain from the encouragement of both the Lubavitch Headquarters as well as one another.

Workshops and seminars were held almost around the clock on such topics as setting up a preschool, effective teaching, adult education, summer camp activities, and teaching the laws of family purity. Professional development workshops covered topics like public speaking, community development, and fundraising.

But the Shluchot had also come from near and far to enhance their personal effectiveness in their jobs, and sessions were scheduled to address their own needs on issues such as personal organization and time management, marital relations and child rearing. Acknowledged in these workshops, and by practically every speaker throughout the five days of meetings, was the very challenging role of Shluchim families.

Whether newly married and working as a team with her spouse for the first time in a new community, or a seasoned community leader who tends to the needs of the entire Jewish community, the Shluchah is usually at once a teacher, public speaker, outreach worker, hostess to endless guests, wife to an equally busy Shliach, and, most importantly, a parent to as many as 15 children, who are themselves dealing with the unusual issues that stem from being a part of the only Jewishly observant family in the area.

Indeed, several speakers cradled babies as they addressed their audience, or carried beepers connected to the child care room equipped with cribs, toys and playpens, where dozens of babysitters attended to the infants and toddlers who had traveled to the conference with their mothers. Parallel workshops were held for children and teenage girls who had also come along. The children’s needs were never secondary in their mothers' work, even throughout the most intense and exciting sessions. One speaker interrupted her banquet address to announce that "Baby 68 needs his Mommy."

"The Conference gives us great energy to go on with our work," said a beaming Mrs. Brachah Sapochinsky, a Shluchah and mother of six from Westlake Village, California. "People always ask us how we do it. We do it because it's our work, our life and our joy, and we do it because this is what our teacher and role model asked of us," she explained, pointing respectfully to a large photograph of the Rebbe.

The annual conference is scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the passing in 1988 (on 22 Shevat in the Jewish calendar) of Rebbetzin Chaya Moussia Schneerson of righteous memory, wife of the Rebbe. Her role in encouraging the Shluchot and the pride she took in their work was acknowledged at every turn.

"The Rebbetzin adored the Shluchot. She adored you, and when we spoke the subject matter would always, at some point, turn to you and your work," Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky told the gathering in his address to them, adding yet one more reason for the women to return to their communities with renewed energy in their leadership roles.

Mrs. Devorah Alevsky, an emissary to Cleveland, Ohio, since 1972, and a partner with her husband, Rabbi Laibel Alevsky, in building a thriving Chabad center there, particularly enjoyed her contact with the younger Shluchot. Herself the mother of Shluchot in such wide-ranging places as Solon, Ohio; Shanghai, China; and Bahia Blanca, Argentina, Alevsky said she benefited from learning some of the new activities designed by the youngest generation of Shluchot.

"We always try to keep things fresh, both for the people we've been teaching for years, and to reach out to each new generation. These young women have some fabulous new ideas," she said. 

Alevsky pointed out that many women have been preparing for a lifetime for their role as emissaries — at their parents' Shabbat table crowded with guests, as camp counselors and youth leaders, and during service stints at various Chabad Houses before getting married.

"I love to see the way they manage in their communities," Alevsky said, confessing that she is "inspired by the excitement they bring to their new role."