“If not for you, I would be dead,” were her first words to me after I told her who was calling. It had been more than 40 years since the last time we spoke.

I had tapped her number into my phone completely unprepared for her reaction, despite having just had a lengthy conversation with her mother.

It was early Friday morning when the FacebookIt had been more than 40 years since we last spoke messenger app on my phone buzzed incessantly, contrasting sharply with the healing sounds in my room. I was 10 minutes into the exercise routine prescribed by my physical therapist for a severe foot injury. My focus was ruined, so I checked my text: “Just saw your name and I wonder: Are you originally from Toronto?” asked Mrs. X.

I responded with a thumbs up, although I didn’t recognize her name.

“Are you Rabbi Dovid Schochet’s daughter?” I again responded in the affirmative, expecting to hear a story about my father, a renowned man who has had a great impact on countless people’s lives.

“Wow. Too emotional.”

I countered that I would love to hear her story. She continued: “Do you remember a kid from the Lubavitch camp back in 1976 and 1977? Her name was Xx. She is my daughter.”

I had been the head counselor of the Toronto Lubavitch camp during those years; however, the name didn’t ring a bell. Since it seemed important to her that I remember, I softened my reply and said, “Vaguely.”

“You influenced her so deeply; you made all of us religious,” she responded. She proceeded to relay to me that her daughter was married to a wonderful man who runs a yeshivah in Lakewood, N.J., and has six incredible children and four grandchildren to date. This was too momentous a conversation to have through text messages, and within minutes, she called me.

“For more than 40 years, I have wanted to thank you,” she said. “You were the driving force behind Camp Lubavitch, and the driving force in all of our lives without even knowing it.”

Spellbound, I listened to her saga.

“I was a completely unaffiliated, single mom to an 11-year-old daughter who wanted more than anything to attend Camp Lubavitch. I didn’t know anything about it other than having seen the posters advertising the camp that had attracted my daughter. I wasn’t sure if I would feel comfortable entrusting these people with my daughter’s care. I decided to go into the Lubavitch main office on Edinburgh Drive and see what they were about.

“Your father is the one I encountered there. ‘Camp registration can wait,’ he said. ‘What’s important is that it is only a week till the Passover holiday begins. Do you have enough food to eat for Passover?’

“I broke down in tears. I did not require financial assistance or the food he offered, but no one in my entire life except for my own mother had ever cared enough about me to worry that I had food to eat. It was so heartening. Obviously, I registered my daughter.

“She loved her months at camp and was excited to return again the next summer. She was profoundly influenced by everything that she learned and experienced. She just took to all of it. Whether it was the Jewish traditions, the stories, the songs, the challah-baking, the relationships with other campers, the counselors, and, of course, her connection with you.

“A few days after camp ended, she told me that she had made an appointment for the next day with a rabbi at a Jewish day school because she wanted to attend. All I knew about rabbis was that you don’t shake hands with them, nothing more. I worked for a very religious man who was a widower; he owned a string of shops. He noticed that I was unusually anxious at work that day and inquired what was wrong. When I explained to him the reason for my nervousness, he offered to accompany us to the meeting.

“We met with Rabbi Hochler, a representative of the administration of Eitz Chaim Day School. He explained to us that they were impressed with my daughter. They had evaluated her and were willing to provide her with the support that she needed in order to succeed academically. However, he said that being that it was an Orthodox day school and the majority of the children came from Shabbat-observant homes, she might feel more comfortable if some of the traditions were reinforced at home. At that point, I had not even agreed that my daughter could go to a Jewish day school, and taking on traditions was something I had never even fathomed. I told him that I needed time to consider everything we had discussed. He told me that since school was starting the following week, I really did not have the luxury of much time.

“For the next three days, I didn’t go to work. I didn’t answer the phone. I was in a quandary. I knew that in order for my daughter to thrive at Eitz Chaim, I would have to observe Shabbat. It was a package deal. On the third day, I had a revelation. Rearing a teenager alone is a difficult undertaking. It might be easier to raise her religious. I met with Rabbi Hochler again and registered her. He refused the tuition I offered to pay and gave me a huge subsidy instead.

“The following day, I returned to work and told my boss that I decided to give my daughter a holistic Jewish education. I was not only going to observe Shabbat, but I called Lubavitch to come and kosher my kitchen as well. I did not know it then, but in that moment listening to my noble resolve, my boss had decided that he wanted to marry me.

“In 1980, we wed after I studied the laws of Family Purity. Two years later, we were blessed with a son. He studied in a yeshivah in Israel. He is married and has five beautiful children.

“Do you, now, understand, Batya, how youYou gave me a husband, a son, grandchildren changed all of our lives? You were the driving force. You gave me a husband, a son, grandchildren—a life I would not have had without your impact.”

I was speechless, overcome with emotion and desperately in need of time to process it all. Before I hung up, she provided me with her daughter’s phone number, telling me how she had found me by sheer “luck” when a friend had just “happened” to add me to a Facebook group.

An hour later, I was ready to call Mrs. X’s daughter. I presumed that Mrs. X had filled her daughter in on reconnecting with me, but this was not the case.

“Hello. This is Batya Schochet,” I said when she answered her cell phone.

“From Toronto?” She shrieked with joy after I answered in the affirmative. “If not for you, I would be dead!” she declared. “I tell everyone what you did for me.”

Dumbstruck, I mumbled, “I just spoke to your mother. She enlightened me on the domino effect of your experiences in camp and the positive consequences on your entire family. But ... I still don’t understand your statement.”

“My mother has her narrative, and I have mine,” she asserted. “My first summer in Camp Lubavitch, the summer after fifth grade, impacted me greatly. In the loving, nurturing atmosphere, I connected to my Jewish identity and sense of self—to the warmth, beauty and vitality of Judaism. I connected to you, to my counselors and to other campers. I related to it all. It was mine in a way that nothing in my life before ever was. The last week of camp, I was so sad it was ending and that I would go back to the isolation, pain and trauma that was part of my normative life experience. I didn’t say anything to you. From an early age, I had learned never to reveal much about my family. I hid my needs and vulnerabilities. I was unable to truly let anyone in. But somehow, you sensed how alone I felt. You pulled me aside one day to talk. You told me that we are all children of G‑d; our loving Father in Heaven lives eternally with us in any time, place or situation. G‑d never leaves us. We are never alone; G‑d is there always through all our ups and downs, even when He appears hidden.

“You told me that you were worried, and rightfully so, that my classmates in public school were beginning to experiment with drugs. You read me a poem about someone who died from an overdose. I said that I did not want to end up like that. I told you that I wanted more Jewish learning, and that I didn’t want to go back to my public school. Since I felt that way, you asked me when I would be ready to transfer to a Jewish school. I said after sixth grade.

“From that day on, regardless of what I experienced in life, the existence of a stable binding relationship with G‑d, characterized by love, has been a vital force throughout my life. I learned that Judaism was mine, and I turned to G‑d in my own quest for meaning, authenticity, security and self-validation.

“Sixth grade was a terrible year for me. It didn’t even make sense how everything fell apart; my friends turned against me because I did not want to be drawn into the things that they were mixed up in. I was bullied. My teachers were not sympathetic to me. I was uncomfortable every single day. To me, it was almost like G‑d was saying, ‘Enough is enough. It’s time you need to go to a Jewish school like you told Batya.’

“My childhood was traumatic, Batya. My parentsIn many ways, I raised myself were both Holocaust survivors. They wove Holocaust imagery into the fabric of my daily life. Before I learned to speak, I heard stories that no child should ever hear. Anxiety and fearfulness were encoded in my genes. I did not get the benefit of adult, parental scaffolding, and in many ways, I raised myself. My parents desired for me to be completely self-sufficient—independent enough to survive at the young age of 3 because the tragedy they survived would repeat itself. Holocaust nightmares in which I played a starring role, reeking of death and encompassing darkness, fear, hunger and cold, pursued me and became a part of my psyche.

“And then there was the prolonged and repeated maltreatment I suffered in silence. My parents showed their damage from trauma with anger. My father’s triggers were many, and he often flew into a rage when I didn’t do things exactly to his liking. I grew up very isolated without an advocate. My association with other people was limited. Carrying the burden of concealing the abuse denied me healing; you cannot heal from something you pretend never happened. My own needs and feelings about whole aspects of myself were restricted from expression.

“I would have despaired completely. I would have definitely ended the constant pain, suffering and aloneness, if not for you. You gave me G‑d. I redefined myself and my approach. G‑d is there with me, 24/7, guiding my life. My fate is in His hands. No human can alter my state. Nothing just occurs. It is all directed by G‑d. Life is sacred, and each of us is made in the image and likeness of G‑d.

“I felt a fidelity and awareness to G‑d that I always tried to honor. It is a mindset, and it brought me tremendous consolation, and promoted my resilience and hopefulness. The obstacles pointed me in the direction I needed to grow closer to G‑d. G‑d will take care of me, no matter what. My newfound sense of security freed me from my nightmares and gave me coping alternatives to suicide. I constantly asked myself, ‘What does G‑d desire of me in this situation?’ G‑d wants me to have the will to live because only then can I fulfill His desire that I accomplish my mission and purpose in this world.

“More recently, I have gotten the help that I need to heal and have my wounds understood. The therapists I have seen marvel at my resilience. I tell them about you. You see, Batya, you had no idea what resulted from your kindnesses and teachings. You changed my world. If not for you, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would be dead. My children and my grandchildren would not be here. And let’s not forget my awesome brother, who has been such a great blessing to me, and his children. Since he would not have been born if not for you.

“In fact, Batya, the timing of your call is uncanny. Between the harsh reality of COVID-19 and life’s challenges, it was exactly now that I needed to reconnect with you and be reminded of the artless sincerity, passion and simple faith of my 11-year-old self to renew my devotion. For that, too, I thank you.”

Stunned, with tears rolling down my cheeks, my mind racing a million miles a minute, I reluctantly ended the conversation with heartfelt promises on both sides to keep in touch.

We don’t have to be anyone special to have a sacred task. And yet, somehow or another, our acts might have consequences that we cannot even begin to imagine.